This month's session is hosted by some Hoosier in Indianapolis. The topic is simply local beer, a term that is synonymous with craft beer for me because it's the very first term used when I discovered it.
As the story goes, I was in a bar in Michigan in a lovely little town called Saugatuck and was getting lunch. I was thirsty of course so I went to see what they had at the bar and saw taps I did not recognise. When I asked what they were I was told it was local beer so I tried what I believe was a Bells Oberon and maybe something else. That was Christmas 2004 I think and I never looked back. Each trip to the US was a joy of discovery. It took many years for me to find out about the Irish craft breweries I'm afraid to say.
What does local beer mean anyway? Well if we take an Irish perspective here. In Ireland, I would like to say that we take pride on our local enterprises. We do have a fanatical following of the GAA sports and a Tipperary man will defend with his life the right to say that Tipp is the best hurling or football (Gaelic) team there is. Just like a Kilkenny or Kerry person will. There is a sense of county pride and even local town pride when we get down to that level. When there is a GAA match nearby, the winners will drive around honking their horns, waving their flags in a convoy throughout every housing estate in the town. Flags will adorn the streets and mascots can be seen in some cases.
Local beer however does not enjoy the same level of pride, and I think that's wrong. In fact if we could somehow get the GAA to help promote local produce, beer included, then I think things might change outside of the bigger cities and towns. Tipperary has it's local pride and it has it's local breweries that should share that sense of pride. Now we might have neighbouring Kilkenny supporters not wanting anything to do with local Kilkenny shite but since they have no brewery, they will just have to man up and set one up.
I long to see the day when every county has at least one local brewery and the locals are proud to drink and be seen to drink their local brew.
Cork is the closest to local beer pride I can think of, where no real rebel Corkonian would be seen dead drinking a Guinness when there is Cork brewed Murphy's and Beamish to choose from. It would be nice if they took more interest in their local craft breweries as well, though enough people seem to drink craft beer in Cork*, and in ever increasing numbers to be very encouraging. In fact they have invaded Dublin and a number of pubs now serve Cork brewed craft beer under different names.
*As The Beer Nut pointed out, Rebel Red is widely available.