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The Session

Session #61: Local Beer

The full title of this month’s session, hosted by Hoosier Beer Geek, is What Makes Local Beer Better? Well, that’s a hard question to answer, because we don’t always think it is.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a good beer hotspot local beer can be very good indeed. Even when it doesn’t taste good, it can be Good because it is environmentally friendly and each pint arrives with a halo of community and a ‘sense of place’.

On the other hand, localness can become just another marketing gimmick to help sell really crappy beer.

For example, if we were more cynical, we might think that some of Cornwall’s microbreweries were deliberately targeting the ‘gullible’ tourist market:

Brewer: I thought I’d start a brewery.
Brewer’s chum: But you only make crappy homebrew! Honestly, that last one was undrinkable. And your fermenter’s next to the manure pile.
Brewer: Don’t worry! All I need to do is put something Cornish on the label, say it’s made near a farm, and sell it by the box to cornershops near campsites. The Emmets‘ll lap it up, and by the time they realise how bad it is, they’ll be back in London.

Sometimes, local beer is really about selling the locality, with the beer as an afterthought. And, of course, the same wheeze is practiced, albeit with more gloss, by some bigger breweries too.

12 replies on “Session #61: Local Beer”

It is astonishing, isn’t it, how awful Doom Bar is and yet how superb almost everything else Sharps brew tastes? I’ve come to think I simply *don’t like* Doom Bar – for whatever reason (and I think, partly, ubiquity means it’s in some crap pubs). But I don’t have a downer on them as, say, I do on GK (where – to go back to another recent B&B theme – I blame the yeast).

Steve – Oh dear! Didn’t mean to sound jaded. There are some pretty bad “gift shop” breweries down here. Also we thought perhaps people were getting bored of our constant praise for the Star inn at Crowlas…

I can’t say I have come across this, but living in Wiltshire and drinking from Oxford to Bristol I am probably spoilt for choice with “real” local brewers

And yet, there are some that are just perfect, without really needing to be.

Visiting the Peaks last year, I was delighted with Chatsworth House’s brewery Peak Ales. Classic but superbly made and delicious best bitters and a very good pale. Now they really don’t need to make such an effort (the tourist pound would keep that going no probs) but they are. Hats off.

A brewery that seems to hit a sweet spot of local branding and innovation is (also Peak country) Buxton. Their Axe Edge IPA is one of the best beers I have ever had. A revelation.

I can think of one brewery in particular that is less than convincing, marketing itself almost exclusively on its locale – Cambridge Fellows brewery (which also might get a couple of (dis)honourable mentions on Pumpclip Parade).

People are getting smarter about beer and the good brews seem to sell out early. Word of mouth travels fast my friend.

I’d love to say local beer is better but it really does depend on where “local” is. If you happen to live near a great brewer then you’re in luck. The problem is, most times, people don’t live near a good local brewer. Not to say they aren’t out there. You just have to find them.

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