17 Feb Why Suggest a National Beer When You Can Talk Up Local? Ways to Support Your Neighborhood Brewery
A short, not very vociferous, rant today about something I have been seeing lately on craft beer on social media and blogs. It isn’t a new issue, and the responses haven’t been getting better even with the growth in the number of breweries and the improvement in the quality of beer throughout the country due to increased competition.
Here’s how this subject often plays out – a person writes a post on their local or regional beer group’s Facebook page or a blogger writes his/her a local or regional beer blog. They want others to suggest, or they want to suggest, a good example of a new style for them, or suggest/describe more examples of a style they already like.
People in their group or who read the blog respond by naming beers and/or breweries that they believe would satisfy the person who posted, or they agree or disagree with the blogger and make other suggestions. Many suggestions or descriptions are common, are well known, and are national. Even when the group is very local, the suggestions are often beers in distribution from national breweries.
Brewers Association stated in May, 20189 that 80% of people of legal drinking age in America now live with 10 miles of a brewery. These are local businesses making great beer in many cases, and even if all their beers aren’t fantastic, they have styles and beers that they do better than most. What’s more, the growth in the number of craft breweries and those lasting for long times indicates that people are drinking their beer. Finally, the vast, vast majority of these breweries don’t distribute at all or very far from home.
Sum up the preceding facts and the only conclusion to be reached is that millions of people are drinking a good amount of local craft beer. That’s great, and we all hope that it continues. So….. why is it when people ask for beers or styles to try, most of the answers are national brands that need to be purchased in distribution? Even on local beer pages, too many suggestions for beers to try or pictures of beers that people are trying/posting about are distant breweries’ products.
If you’re drinking local beer – and statistics suggest you are, why not suggest those local beers to others? I get it – some Facebook groups are national or even international, so providing people with local beer or brewery suggestions might not make sense. But often the pages are for a city or region of a state, and bloggers are writing for people within their city or state. Yet too often, those articles talk about beers that many people know from long time distribution. It may be a case of wanting to talk to the most people, but I think it does local craft beer a disfavor.
You want a great stout? I can name 50 great stouts in Indiana, examples you can find at different times of the year in different parts of the state. Some may be in distribution, made in Fort Wayne and sold in Muncie or made in Evansville and sold in Terre Haute, but these are still local beers and suggesting them to others would raise Indiana craft beer in the process. Suggesting that they try a national stout from a chain liquor store doesn’t do much to help your local brewer.
A different way to handle the situation would be for the poster to include the city or region where they live in their query for suggestions or for the commenters to suggest both national and local examples. If nothing else, this would give some local breweries a bit of publicity and will put them in the company of well know and well-like beers. For a blogger, include local, regional, and national examples when talking about beer styles and favorite beers. It doesn’t make their points any less salient, they just promote local better.
Take this past weekend for example. Walter and I were at Centerpoint Brewing’s Frigid Digits Winter Beer Fest. Over 900 people came together to taste nothing but Indiana (mostly, but not all, central Indiana) beer. There must have been 50 different styles of beers represented from 23 different producers, and many were absolutely top notch. When someone asks you for a good smoked beer, why not suggest Big Lug Canteen’s smoked lager along with Schlenkerla? If someone wants to try a hefewiezen, why not suggest Bier Brewery’s Weizengoot or Guggman Haus Brewing’s Guggenweizen along with Schnickelfritz from Urban Chestnut or Franziskaner?
We all hope that local craft beer succeeds and keeps improving, and to do this, it requires that we support those breweries with our dollars. It’s our duty to talk them up and let people know what is great locally, not just what is great in all of craft beer. When someone wants to know a great beer, suggest a local one – help tell their story and generate some interest.
This is just one example I have seen where people could do better in getting others to drink more local craft beer, not just craft beer in general. But it isn’t the only way. Spending your dollars at local breweries is the best way, but there are several things you can do that don’t cost you any money, or at least any extra money. You can use local breweries for meetings and other group functions. You can talk them up at any opportunity. You can ask them to contribute or participate in charity giveaways or other not-for-profit (or for profit) events.
On social media, there are many actions that might seem small, but can have a long-term additive effect on a brewery’s social presence. Like and share a brewery’s posts, add emojis or photos to a post about a brewery, tag your friends when a brewery you like posts something. And of course, you can write a nice review on different platforms. None of these actions takes much time, but they can raise a local brewery’s profile and perhaps add to their bottom line.
You like local beer? Do what you can to help your local breweries stay relevant and profitable. So what if the person you’re suggesting a local beer to happens to be half way across the country – give them national and a local example. Be as active on social media as you’re comfortable with to promote your local favorites. Then you’ll know that you’re doing your best to be a good local beer fan.