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The full title of this month’s session, hosted by Hoosier Beer Geek, is What Makes Local Beer Better? Well, that’s a hard question to answer, because we don’t always think it is.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a good beer hotspot local beer can be very good indeed. Even when it doesn’t taste good, it can be Good because it is environmentally friendly and each pint arrives with a halo of community and a ‘sense of place’.
On the other hand, localness can become just another marketing gimmick to help sell really crappy beer.
For example, if we were more cynical, we might think that some of Cornwall’s microbreweries were deliberately targeting the ‘gullible’ tourist market:
Brewer: I thought I’d start a brewery.
Brewer’s chum: But you only make crappy homebrew! Honestly, that last one was undrinkable. And your fermenter’s next to the manure pile.
Brewer: Don’t worry! All I need to do is put something Cornish on the label, say it’s made near a farm, and sell it by the box to cornershops near campsites. The Emmets‘ll lap it up, and by the time they realise how bad it is, they’ll be back in London.
Sometimes, local beer is really about selling the locality, with the beer as an afterthought. And, of course, the same wheeze is practiced, albeit with more gloss, by some bigger breweries too.