Friday, 2 March 2012
The Session #61 - Local beer
2004. Ramsgate. Sitting in the brewery bar, across from huge shiny tanks of something. I can see people putting green stuff in the top. I can smell something biscuity and sweet. And I can see the fruits of their labour, in the form of 4 or 5 pump clips on the bar. I can drink my pint of Gadds No. 3 knowing it was created just yards from my seat, and just a 5 minute walk from my school. That is when I started getting in to beer, and that is what local beer means to me.
I still hold Gadd’s beer in very high regard, and drink it whenever I can, although as I no longer live there I do not think of it as my local brewery. In beautiful North London, Camden Town now hold that position. I drink their beers all the time, not just because they are readily available and delicious, but because I have seen the brewery, met people there, and occasionally wear the t-shirt.
Hops, malt and various other ingredients can be sourced from all over the world, so there is often no physical reflection of the locality in beer. It may be fresher and more likely to be kept well (easier to keep track of quality with pubs down the road) but other than that is local beer a myth? I don’t think so. Millions of people cheer on their football or rugby team every week, despite the fact that the players, managers and owners will rarely be from the local area. The emotional connection still exists.
For me, I feel a sense of ownership over my local brewery. I want it to succeed, to be good, to grow. But its more than that - they owe me that success. I spend more hard earned money on my local beer than any other, and I tell friends and family they should drink it when they visit. So I feel invested, committed - I can’t go moving house because the local beer isn’t good enough, so don’t let me down. That’s the difference for me – if I buy an American beer and it’s great, I enjoy it in the moment. If its rubbish, I shrug and move on. I’m either pleased or annoyed. But only my local brewery is important enough to make me proud or disappointed. Anyone who insults London beer will get scorn, derision and maybe a pie thrown at them. Given the availability of quality beer online from all over the place, this makes little sense. But that’s how it is. My beer is better than your beer…