Local. Authentic. Experience. As we all know, these words are used time and time again to describe what travelers want. But how can even standardized establishments find ways to showcase the flavor of their specific location, aside from featuring area artists? The answer, dear readers, can be found in your breweries. Even if your town doesn’t have one, your state does. For true aficionados―and they are legion―a great discovery in your bar program is something to boast about and post about.
I’ve been a beer fanatic since before I was probably supposed to be. I remember poring over Michael Jackson’s world beer guide looking for new options to try, and then desperately attempting to locate them in Boone, North Carolina. My hunt was global, anything new and exciting. There was only one brewery in town, and I could have their beer whenever. I needed something different.
Take a leap 20 years into the future, and how the world has changed. I’m no longer hunting for the beer I read about, I’m hunting for the one I’ve never even heard of. I want the beer from the little local brewery that doesn’t even distribute outside of town, because that brewery can take chances and create something new. They can brew a one-off beer just to try it out, serve it in the taproom, and never worry about packaging or advertising costs. An Instagram post is all it takes to bring in customers to try it out and provide instant feedback.
The conversation is always about the big craft breweries slowly losing market share, but they’re not just losing their market to the mega-corp brewing giants and their “crafty” beer entries. Consumers like me have just continued the natural progression of our craft beer journey and gone local. Local dining was always a priority for me. I liked the connection, I liked knowing where the ingredients came from, knowing the people behind the business. Despite that, all of my exciting beer options were still coming from west coast craft brewing legends or being imported from Europe. It never crossed my mind that I should drink local as well, simply because that local option didn’t exist.
I’m no longer hunting for the beer I read about, I’m hunting for the one I’ve never even heard of.
Now I can walk from my favorite beer bar, and within half a mile I’m at my favorite local brewery. Nevermind the fact that I would walk past another brewery on the way there, or that had I turned the other direction I would have reached another. Restaurants collaborate with breweries for namesake beers, and the breweries use those connections to build relationships with local farmers for specialty ingredients. That same favorite brewery brews a coffee breakfast stout using beans from the roaster across the street, and each location gives me a face to put behind the product.
Why does it matter? The beer does have to be good, being local isn’t enough if the product quality isn’t there. But as breweries grow beyond closed-door warehouses that you drive past in the “other side” of town to thriving taprooms with an active social scene, that same personal connection is built. If I’m choosing between two beers on a draft list, and I know one was made by the brewer I regularly get to talk shop with in their taproom, the choice is easy.
This is not to say that there’s no place left in the market for the larger craft brewer. Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA is almost always in my beer fridge, and it’s there for a good reason. Those breweries make a solid, dependable product that people know they can count on. If anything, the growth of local beer has inspired the craft giants to innovate more in response to the trend. But when I’m out to eat, out with friends, or traveling, I want to find that local beer I’ve never tried before. That’s the beer that takes me back to the same thrill I felt 20 years ago when I had my first Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, except now it’s a dry-hopped Brett IPA made two blocks away and served out of a taproom big enough for a bar and a handful tables by somebody living out their dream.
Consumers like me have just continued the natural progression of our craft beer journey and gone local.
That’s one way to do it.
Image courtesy of BrewDog
Scottish craft brewery BrewDog is giving beer geeks the ultimate beer-themed immersive experience with a 50-room craft beer hotel currently under construction in Columbus, Ohio. BrewDog is aiming to throw open the doors of The DogHouse by the end of September 2018. They opened the first “beer hotel” in the world in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, earlier this year.
Every element of the stay pays homage to hops and the vast world of incredible craft beer. The company has turned to what they do best to establish this epic hotel, and the attached sour beer brewery via crowdfunding. Famous for shaking up the finance world with its anti-business model, Equity for Punks, BrewDog has taken more money through crowdfunding than any other business on record. They are now mobilizing a loyal army through Indiegogo to raise enough funds to fast track plans to create a utopia dedicated to the appreciation of great beer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Needham Atkins has been a homebrewer and craft beer aficionado for the past twenty years, but you probably shouldn’t do the math. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife, daughter, and two Keeshonds who are addicted to spent grain. An avid traveler, one of his happiest finds was Three Floyds Alpha King at a Hyatt Place lobby bar in Indianapolis. In his scarce free time, Atkins can be found doing industry research at Beer Study in Chapel Hill and Steel String Brewery in Carrboro.
Unless otherwise noted, all images are courtesy of Needham Atkins.