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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Atis -

Well said. I support local only when it is good. I just need to go back in history, taking 20s and 30s as an example when in Latvia prohibitive import duties were placed on beer in order to "favour locals". What locals did was to raise prices immediately and decrease diversity, because no one cares when there is no foreign competition around. They made some local deals to keep prices up (cartels were not prohibited then) and at the end of 30s the country was full of high priced and uniform not so well made, but very local beer.

And then the Soviet Union. All beer was local, because centralized planning did not care about shipping beer, it was not economical and beer was mostly so badly made, it could not keep fresh for long. Sometimes Czech beer was made available, but it flied out of the shops, it was so much better than often spoiled local brews.

Now when it is capitalism, I really enjoy the free market. Where foreign breweries put a lot of pressure on locals and keep their quality up.

Alan -

I am so pleased to have your perspective added to the conversation, Atis. For a few months back in 1991 I also lived on the Baltic and saw what lack of competition meant for beer and other things. Albanian carrot jam was local to someplace but not any place I would have wanted to be.

Craig -

See, good stuff happens when you don't know how to end your post.

Jeff Alworth -

Kind of depends on where you live, doesn't it?

FWIW, the guys at Brasserie St. Germain in Aix-Noulette (brand name is Page 24) came to a decision point a couple years after they started brewing: organic or local. That Nord-Pas-du-Calais region is one of the only on earth where you can buy everything you need to make beer locally. (Even sugar comes from local beets.) They decided to go for it. There are definite limitations; local hop fields grow something like four varieties.

In the case of Aix-Noulette, they could boast local beer being better--St. Germain is really good. But it's a spotty hypothesis, for sure.

Alan -

They may be able to justly claim it is good but really not better. Most beer in the world likely can claim a significant degree of Canadian-ness with the surplus of our barley malt.

But I have to quibble with the suggestion that it is one of the only on earth where you can buy everything you need to make beer locally as that is just one crop away for the most part from a very wide swath of each hemisphere. Anywhere north of the Mediterranean and south of the Baltic could easily have a go. Local is a practical reality for much of the two global beer bands where barley and hops can grow. Which makes the idea of "local is better" even odder given its almost universal rejection.

Ethan -

Doesn't it depend on what you mean by "better?" I'm not just being snarky... local certainly guarantees nothing as regards quality; agreed. But I do endeavour to keep my dollars circulating around WNY for a number of reasons, quality is only one factor.

Jeff Alworth -

Alan, sorry I'm late on this. If "local" means grown within, say 20 miles (50?--dunno where to draw the line, but you see my point) of your brewery, then no, very few places on earth have both hop and barley fields nearby. Even in England, where hops and barley are both produced, you can be pretty far away from a hop field.

I'm not really disputing anything here, and I don't even want to argue that we need to go back to a local farming model. (It would raise prices, eliminate beer in vast swathes of the world, and probably increase greenhouse gas.)

Alan -

Well I don't care about those threats so much as if the question uses words that have meaning and then we have to shift the meaning to make the question work there is an underlying problem.

In common hipster parlance, local means 100 mile radius. Anything very much more starts to look a lot like Sam Adams = small. If beer is not made on a basis that approximates this then, well, there really is not actual local beer any more than the gas station down the road offers local fuel for my car. If Canadian grain and German hops make beer anywhere in the world without any local input other than water, labour and financing I don't think that is "local beer" just branch plant beer.