A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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dansmallbeer -

I'll give my sociologist's perspective. When people say "local" they tend to mean one of 3 things:

1. made in same political region city/province/region
2. made within certain distance
3. made by members of a particular cultural group

So unless you're clear on what you actually mean or imagine when you say or question "local", it's a discussion that's destined to go the way of "styles" and other fluid, ambiguous terms.

When I say local, I generally mean brewed on Vancouver Island. But it's contextual. When I'm travelling in Ontario, I might refer to Central City and Howe Sound as "local beers".

Alan -

I can't imagine what gives a sociologist a leg up on either questions of geography or proper English language usage but I will go along to see what you are suggesting.

There are plenty more ways the word is use in addition to that. There can be a positive implication of quality and craftiness when it is used in relation to products. Few, for example, would use the word to describe the Peterborough Quaker Oats facility but it is. Nor, with beer, do we praise Labatt as local but it is.

But it can be negative, too. It is also about what is not. In Canada, unlike say New Zealand, "local" would not include aboriginal in the same way. It's a filter. We do not dance out Haka, for example.

There is plenty of uses for the word (which are neither vague or ambiguous just varied) that are applied and carry various sorts of interesting baggage. As my point is that it is an unclear and therefore useless label to use at this geographical scale in this context, it is quite worthwhile poking at the idea to see which of the uses are really at play.

dansmallbeer -

Quite. Sociology doesn't give me a leg up and that wasn't the impression I was trying to give. Just happens the concept of "local" is something I spent a while reading and thinking about and I wanted to give context.

We're on the same page about the idea. I would just be hesitant to call it xenophobia when — as your muse on ambiguity of word and thought illustrates — there could be any number of reasons for using the word local in this context: unthinking bombastic sentiment, cynical awareness of favourable buzz-words to use in social media, excessive love for one's province that in no way involves a mirrored dislike of anyone who is not from the same province, poorly-communicated love for Brooklyn's two belgian-style offerings, etc etc etc.

Alan -

[Tweet repeat] Fair enough. I just love the PEI quote and like to revive it once in a while. Harry Fleming wrote it.

[Vital new content] So, what is it that I should desire if I am to add this sort of quasi ethical jingoistic layer to my love of good beer? If it is the 100 mile diet, my circle reaches almost to Syracuse, NY. Sadly, not enough to get me to Ommegang. Would it not be better to trace each our own one warm line and celebrate those we meet along the way without pre-judgement or expectation?

Curmudgeon -

Some people in CAMRA in the UK have arguments on a par with debating the number of angels who can stand on the head of a pin over the "Locale" local beer scheme.

Alan -

In other contexts it would seem clearer. "Local" for me really needs less than an hour in the car for it to have any rational meaning. That gets me into the states and to one brewery in the next county to my west. Maybe Church-Key, too.

But time for travel is just one element.

Malty Tasker -

If 'local' was the only criterion set for this tweeter, it certainly needs to be defined, but if thrown out as one motivating factor behind a cost-benefit analysis upon which a beer purchase decision should be made, it might not be so jingoistic or xenophobic as you claim (though if more was said, perhaps that exposes this bigotry, I just don't think 'local' does on its own).

Personally, as some who tends to slightly prioritize a broad conception of local, aside from price and quality (which are assuredly factors in a purchase decision), I also try to consider broad distance, business size/practices, shipping, etc, if I am aware of them. One problem with strict definitions of/claims to wholly 'buy local' (or to prioritize this factor to the detriment of all others) is that the motivation is often based on carbon emissions... however a product shipped by sea from New Zealand to Toronto can have a smaller carbon footprint than, say a product shipped by truck from Ottawa to Toronto. However, despite gains, we (as consumers) live in a world of imperfect information, and when I, personally, encourage people to explore local/craft/microbrewed/Ontario beer options, I am encouraging them to add such factors - when and where pertinent - to their purchasing decisions, just like they would other factors.

For me, I buy beer from everywhere that I can, but given two roughly similar products for which the 'local' (which is intentionally broadly-defined) is often cheaper and from a smaller business versus a larger multinational (or shipped through one), that 'local' product will often become a staple in my beer cellar, whereas the other might be a one-off (or rarity). This might miss other factors, but without perfect information consumers must always decide by balancing act based on what they know and what they find pertinent.

Malty Tasker -

It is also worth noting that though some American breweries may be closer in distance to some Ontario consumers, their products may not be carried by the LCBO and, hence, less readily available (and become 'less local' environmentally and pricier with requisite two-way trips to procure them). Personally, I'd never claim that such political boundaries were prioritized over all other factors and if ever interpreted that way, a clarification could easily be made - is it possible the 140 character tweets mentioned were simply limited in capacity rather than as egregious as presumed?

Craig -

I think you need to move to Sacket's Harbor and make things easier on youself.

Ethan -

in 'local's' defense, it's no less ambiguous a word than 'craft,' or 'good' for that matter.

Alan -

But you are in my local so that is OK.

Pok -

I think that for many local means "made by the people who, if not gainfully employed making beer, would become a further strain on my financial obligations to my state". Or something like that.