In last week’s Area Man Drinks Craft Beer blog post, we dispelled some myths about craft beer and its cost, strength, and audience. Today, let’s wrap up the fifth volume in the beginner’s basics series by talking about why drinking craft beer often means supporting your community, small businessmen and businesswomen, and innovation.
Craft Beer: Chances Are, Your Neighbor Made It With Local Ingredients
In the September 12, 2012 Area Man Drinks Beer post, we talked about the Brewers Association criteria for designating a brewery as a craft brewer. The upper limits are 6 million barrels per year (by comparison, brewers like Budweiser’s parent, Anheuser-Busch, brew closer to 200 million barrels per year). The Jamaica Plain-based Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams, is the only craft brewer in the million-barrel club – and barely anyone else comes close.
What we are here to talk about, however, is not about beer that can be measured in millions of anything. Aside from Samuel Adams, the other 43 Massachusetts-based brewers can be classified as nanobreweries or regional microbreweries that produce anywhere from three to several thousand barrels of beer per year.
As a member of West Roxbury Main Streets, I have coordinated events to highlight our local businesses and restaurants by hosting craft beer-themed dinners and tastings over the last few years. These events have been limited to brewers in the Commonwealth because the Main Streets focus on eating and shopping locally told us that we should probably focus on local brewers as well. And Massachusetts craft brewers have always been quick to volunteer to help out their fellow local small businesses.
Of course, West Roxbury has no local brewery - but your neighbors are working behind the scenes to create and deliver some of the best brews Massachusetts Brews Guild members have to offer.
They are your neighbors, small businessmen and women that are artisans engaged in a craft that aims to provide a flavorful brew, often using local ingredients and often at a competitive price. Maybe you didn’t know that the Chief of Staff at Canton’s Blue Hills Brewery lives in West Roxbury. Porter Café publican Dermot Loftus is a Parkway resident. One of our soon-to-be commercial brewers, Noble Experiment Beers, includes a former employee at Sofia Steakhouse on the VFW Parkway.
And the local connections don’t stop at the people. Many brewers are putting an emphasis on local ingredients as well, with Valley Malt in Hadley the only malt house east of the Mississippi River. Several local brewers, including Notch Brewing and the Cambridge Brewing Company, have brewed a harvest beer with locally grown grains processed through Valley Malt (this season’s Notch Valley Malt BSA - short for “Brewer-Supported Agriculture”, is a farmhouse version of a Belgian Pale Ale and was just released last week). Ipswich Ale Brewery has a special series that strives to use ingredients grown within a 5-mile radius. Jack’s Abby in Framingham is releasing a beer using hops grown on the grounds of its brewhouse.
In a truly innovative turn on the local focus, Chelsea’s Mystic Brewery recently released the first beer in its Vinland Series. Vinland One utilizes an indigenous strain of yeast – Winnisimmet, harvested from a Massachusetts plum – in the fermentation process to produce a unique saison with flavors consistent with the New England terroir. The beer smells like a plum, but no fruit was used in the brewing process. It is one of the most interesting beers that I’ve had in recent memory, and shows what excitement can come from the local craft beer scene.
What all this should tell you is that drinking local craft beer is not just about enjoying a great product, but about supporting local small businesspeople as they practice their trade, grow local commerce, and employ your neighbors. Don’t think it has an effect? As I mentioned in my inaugural post, read up on the effects of spending locally at The 3/50 Project, and understand what your dollar means to the small businesspeople making a living by creating and serving you some of the finest beers in America.
So enjoy a fine craft brew from a New England brewer, and support a small business owner in the process. Drink local, indeed.
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The Highland Hash Fall Fun Run series from West Roxbury Main Streets and the Parkway Running Club was on October 11, at 6 pm at the Blanchard’s Tasting Room with Spring Street’s LeanWorks Burgers & Wraps and Northampton’s High & Mighty Beer. RSVP on the WRMS Facebook events page here. And don’t forget the November run: 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 3 at Porter Café with Somerville’s Slumbrew.
We have a rich craft beer constituency in West Roxbury (and beyond), and I want to provide it with a voice and a forum through this blog. Send me your thoughts on the blog, event postings and ideas for future stories or reviews at neighbeers at gmail dot com or through twitter @Neighbeers. And comments below, good or bad, are always appreciated.