Sunday, November 11, 2012

Brewers: Can you "justify calling beer local"? Are you being hypocritical when you do so?

On Friday, I presented a manifesto of sorts in this space, as recently published at Food and Dining magazine:

My column at Food and Dining: "Localism + Beer."

A reply I received (below) surely raises a few good points. Of course, the world is seldom black or white; it's mostly gray. And, the "localism" of which we speak in this context implies a large element of shift (in patronage, in spending, in procurement), and this is a concept that explicitly acknowledges an absence of perfection in choice.

In fact, I believe the reply is lucid, and merits further discussion. I'm not "calling out" the writer. Mostly, I'm curious. For those brewers and brewery owners reading ...

During the course of your daily routine, do you feel "hypocritical" when linking your work with emerging principles of localism? 

Is the localism in your lives something genuine, or are you merely "riding a tremendous propaganda marketing machine wave"? 

Do you agree, as the writer suggests, that truly local beer is impossible apart from a few scattered instances, i.e., Chatoe Rogue, or breweries operating in areas where both barley and hops are grown?

Let me know what you think, either here or privately. The full comment follows.



Let's say I owned a local restaurant based in New Albany. I pitch myself as being a "local" restaurant, and I want the patronage of local residents.

I make a big pot of vegetable beef stew each and every day.

My beef comes from New Zealand, my tomatoes come from Mexico, my beans come from California, the barley comes from North Dakota, and my black eyed peas come from a massive company with ties to Monsanto.

I have fooled the public into thinking they should support local just because I happen to own the restaurant, and they should "support local," but clearly I actually do not based on my ingredient list. Breweries are exactly the same way. They are riding a tremendous propaganda marketing machine wave.

How on earth do you justify calling beer local? It isn't feasible to make beer from only local sources. Ingredients come from all over the country and the world for that matter. It is hypocritical of all of these breweries asking us to support local. That money isn't staying locally. It is going to massive companies like Wayerman, Briess, Hopunion, Wyeast, and White Labs. Who is one of Briess's major suppliers? Monsanto!

I support New Albanian Brewing Company because you make a fantastic product. If you stop making a fantastic product I will stop supporting you. End of story.


Stan Hieronymus said...

Hey Roger - This was a Session topic not long ago, and in fact hosted by a Hoosier. Here's the url of the roundup:

Adding to my thoughts (my post was unusually short) would only get me in trouble. I happen to think Budweiser is a local beer here in St. Louis. Which would mean it is American. And simply typing that makes me an outlier.

The New Albanian said...

I missed this one, thanks.

Sam said...

Here in West Mass Valley Malt is trying to address that...they are making mainly base malt, not speciality, from barley grown in the area so that Mass brewers (in conjunction with some local hop growers) can really brew a local beer. They are no Briess, but from what I've seen of their malt house, it is an impressive start.

Jeff Mouttet said...

It is an interesting argument. I take issue with one point, the statement about money not staying local. Just because one part of the ingredient list (say hops in beer) isn't local, does that make the whole product "not local"? For me, I frequent local business. I don't waste hours researching their ingredient lists, nor check who their suppliers are. I support my friends in local business regardless if they happen to buy a GMO bean from freaking Monsanto. The PROFITS from their businesses go back into MY community. Good enough for me.