“Importing” Craft Beer

12Apr12

The folks over at Lucette Brewing posted a on their blog about an issue that is arising in the craft beer scene here in the Twin Cities and across the country:

I envision a day when you can walk into an establishment and all beer available was produced within 500 miles.  The cynics tell me it’s not possible.  Not enough variety or unique beer is being produced locally they say.  I need to distinguish myself from other establishments so I need to import crafts from elsewhere they answer.  My response is simply give us time.  We have prodigious ambitions at Lucette and with time we will produce a great variety of solid craft beers.  The cynics also told us we couldn’t start a craft brewery in Menomonie and be successful.  Doubt is a powerful motivator.

I implore you to walk into establishments and support local.  Take a running account of what is being poured today.  I would venture to say at least half is still being imported from other regions.  As of today there are at least 20 manufacturing breweries within 100 miles of the Twin Cities metro area.  For argument’s sake, lets say each one of these breweries is producing at least 4 beers (most craft lovers know it will be more then this).  That gives us a running total of at least 80 beers!  Not enough variety?  I can understand Belgians, sours, and a few other exceptions, but we are talking about ambers, pale ales, browns, and other staples of the craft industry.  I do not believe an amber from Alaska, an IPA from California, a lager from New York, or a Maibock from Oregon are superior to what’s produced locally.  Have you had a Summit or Rush River lately?  If you haven’t then do so.

We are experiencing a boom in the industry that parallels pre prohibition.  Breweries are popping up what seems like every other day.  How much can the market support the naysayers ask?  My answer is all of it if we make an effort to consume products that are made in our backyards.  The last few weeks has seen an explosion of craft breweries trying to one up each other with expansions to other markets.  What are they trying to accomplish with this?  How many breweries do you want?  This is a capitalistic market, that I understand, but don’t criticise the big breweries for operating multiple locations when you favorite large craft is doing the same thing.  The ultimate goal for both is no different: get their product in as many hands as possible.

The next time another craft announces they are going to import their product into our market I implore you to pass on it.  I would venture to argue that in a year or two they will no longer be available here anyways.  Think of the breweries that have entered this market only to go to the wayside and/or pullout.  Do you think they generally care about this craft scene?  No.  They are here to pillage and cannibalize local craft breweries only to pull out and move to another state when their sales dry up and fizzle out.  I can assure you we are not going anywhere literally or figuratively.

I implore you to drink locally produced craft beer.  In due time, I give you my word that we will produce a whole plethora of awesome beers.  My current hope is that while you are reading this you are doing so while enjoying a Lucette, Rush River, Surly, or another great beer produced in our backyard.

Mike

This issue isn’t unique to the Upper Midwest, but a lot of people are talking about it here since our local scene has exploded over the last couple of years. I understand their point, and I love craft beer from Minnesota and Wisconsin, but if it weren’t for the excellent out of state/out of region breweries, people here would have never developed a taste for craft beer and the scene never would have flourished like it has. I’ve been into craft for about 10 years and when I started, the only decent local option in stores was Summit. I couldn’t have developed my love for craft beer on that alone. It took Sierra Nevada, Bell’s, Victory, Great Divide (which were the other high quality craft beers available back then) and Belgian imports to really develop my palate and my passion. I could easily get by on local beers now, but without the non-locals, they probably wouldn’t even exist.

I try to drink as much local beer as I can, and it’s getting much easier with the great options that we have available now, but I love the lineup from Stone, Great Lakes, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Boulevard, Odell, etc., and with the influence of out of state breweries, our hometown heroes up the ante and compete with their own new recipes and ideas. Not only that, but when Minnesota and Wisconsin breweries expand and succeed in other states, it’s good for them and it’s good for our scene. The revenue they pull in from other states helps them grow and expand their options.

Local is great, but we can’t shut out breweries from other states in the name of hometown pride.

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2 Responses to ““Importing” Craft Beer”

  1. 1 Nart

    Couldnt agree more. Mike’s argument could be made for almost any product produced locally. I enjoy alot of MN brew but to say I refuse to drink out of state beers is silly. Regardless of how good a local brew is there is always going to be out of town beers that are just as good or better for the style (think Weinstephaner for a Hefe or Rodenbach sours).

    Town pride is awesome and important but the real key is drinking quality over mass produced garbage spit out by InBev

    • Exactly, and limiting yourself to local brews might mean choosing an inferior local product over a better product from another state. That’s not good for you as a consumer and it’s only temporarily good for the local brewer since they will continue to crank out the mediocre product instead of improving to compete.


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