Craft Brew Alliance and the Search for a New ‘Local’

growing importance of local points

There is great power in “local.”

It offers pride, ownership and often, a connection to intrinsic values. Between 2008 and 2014, sales of local food more than doubled to $11.7 billion. Local not only makes people feel good, but there’s money to be made in it, too.

So when it comes to the beer industry, the increasing attention paid to what’s local makes sense. Drinkers want a deeper connection to the product they love, but it also offers an opportunity for businesses to tap into the consciousness of a community. “Local” builds relationships.

As Maureen Ogle recently wrote, the idea of local has been that “the narrative helped build and bind the industry” with help from the Brewers Association. But what happens when that knot starts being pulled apart?

Perhaps it’s becoming a case where a successful beer doesn’t necessarily need to be local in geography, but simply in philosophy.

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Stretching Your Dollar: Is Elasticity Craft Beer’s Biggest Threat?

Beer_Bottle-stretch

Every story started deserves an ending.

Remember my last post and the inner struggle between a local beer and national one? The difference of a couple bucks was enough. In lieu of a beer brewed within a short driving distance, I bought the new Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale, made with Neomexicanus hops. The price certainly helped, but the promised experience of enjoying a beer created with what is essentially “experimental” (read: new) hops pushed me over the edge.

Also, I’m still not buying the $11 bottle of “imperial amber ale” brewed several miles from where I type this.

At the core of my decision was the reason I’ve become so adamant for craft beer in the first place – quality and variety. As Greg Engert recently pointed out, we shouldn’t let the sole idea of “drinking local” cloud that search:

We began by decrying the lack of variety, the lack of quality, and the lack of full-flavored drinking experiences offered by the industrial lager. Now, the desire to drink local brews has reached a fever pitch, often blinding publicans and craft beer drinkers alike from what should ultimately guide our choices: Is the beer of the highest quality? Is it bereft of off-flavors? Is it delicious? In short, is it superlative and memorable?

This is especially important when considering today’s beer consumer is focused on aspects of variety and new experiences. So what does this have to do with how we spend our money, anyway?

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Stretching Your Dollar: Local Brews and the Beer Economy

Beer_Bottle-stretch

I’ve lost track how often I do it – standing alone, head bobbing back and forth from one beer to another.

It seems absurd, but in reality, it’s also a growing “problem.”

Do I want to spend $8 on a 22-ounce bottle of locally-produced pale ale or stout or $6 on a seasonal specialty beer from a national brand?

For me, like many beer enthusiasts, “drinking local” is more than a mantra thrown around. It’s a key part of my passion toward appreciating beer. I like knowing exactly where a beer came from, but also that I’m supporting a small, local business.

But the fact of the matter is a penny saved is a penny earned and this is an expensive hobby.

More important, this kind of cost-benefit analysis is pivotal for the vast majority of shoppers: those unlike me, who don’t overthink the malt and hops in a beer. Often, the choice is simple – find a good beer for a good price. Or, rather, find a good price and plan for the best.

So why is this something to worry about, anyway?

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The Language of Beer: Going Hyperlocal

map pinFirst we looked at the changing vernacular or beer, then analyzed what “cheap beer” meant to people.

Today, however, we go from a national look to a local one.

The best part about the recent Yelp Trends posts is the ability to hone into specific locales to gauge the potential for bias or interest within a specific metro area. So while we originally looked at broader topics that relate to craft beer, I love the fact we can also go micro and investigate unique aspects of beer that are local.

And there are a lot.

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The Six-Pack Project: Beers from Around the Country

six pack-beerWith Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, we’ve entered the (unofficial) start of summer. Barbecues, beaches and vacations lie ahead.

But what’s a trip away from home without throwing beer into the mix?

Enter the Six-Pack Project. It’s a new, collaborative effort between beer bloggers from around the country to highlight a six-pack of our state’s native brews that we believe best represent what the beer culture of our respective states offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?

Here are our rules:

  • Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  • Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  • Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  • Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

Welcome to the inaugural round of the Six-Pack Project. I hope to include bloggers from across the U.S. in future versions, so contact me on Twitter if you or someone you know may fit the bill.

Some quick notes to about selections for my state, North Carolina:

1. I approached this task as if I were building a flight of beers for you to try. Because of that, I’ve picked six different styles of beers that would (hopefully) take you through a great North Carolina beer experience, although subjectively selected by me.

2. All of these picks can be found year-round in NC beer shops.

Without further adieu, let’s find out what North Carolina has to offer…
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What Makes Beer “Local?”

buy fresh-local-farmers market-local beer-beer(1)

Because of immense growth in the number of breweries across the country, the idea of “world domination” may not necessarily be a reality any more. Domination, like many start-ups’ distribution network, can be accomplished in a city, town, state or region.

Is it realistic for any new brewery to become the next Sierra Nevada or New Belgium these days? More importantly – does that matter?

Not necessarily.

One of the great things about our craft beer boom is that as breweries start small, many are staying “small.” Or, at least, staying committed to their hometown audience.

That’s good because in recent years, consumer behavior has shifted toward the “buy local” movement, especially those that emphasize the ideals and practices of “local” or “community” within their business. Essentially, if a business is good to its local, loyal customers, they’ll be loyal right back.

“From a business standpoint, local consumers are a huge component of a brewery’s fan base, and in many cases their bottom line,” said David Ackley, founder of the Local Beer Blog. “A brewery taproom offers a significant profit margin that can be especially useful, if not critical, to smaller breweries just getting off the ground. The local fans are also usually the first to spread the word about a new beer release or a special event, either over social media or by word of mouth.”

Local, dedicated business is important – no doubt – so what is it exactly that makes people think “local” when it comes to their beer? Continue reading

A Few Words on … staying local

local collage

I love beer, but I also love the cultural and historical aspects of the drink. The somewhat “new” movement to make and drink locally isn’t new at all. It’s actually infused in the history of beer, from the inns of Rome to the pubs of Great Britain to the taverns of colonial America. From the get-go, beer and other spirits were made locally and drank locally, even before all the crafty vs. craft silliness.

Local beer isn’t just a new fad, it’s a fundamental aspect of the history of the drink we love so much. It’s what makes the effort of Matt over at Review Brews to drink only local beer for a calendar year pretty damn cool.

So while drinkers around the country and world may clamor to local options now, the “drink local” movement is ingrained in the idea of sharing a pint in the first place. This makes our efforts today even more special, taking beer drinkers back to their roots of celebrating with neighbors and community members. These are reasons I’ve really enjoyed the exponential growth of breweries and brewpubs here in North Carolina, where it’s suddenly much easier to find that special, neighborhood pint. Recently, I’ve been able to do just that.

What’s so special about local beer? Let’s hit the jump and find out.

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