Drinking Local - Drinking Fresh

Three weeks on and people are still talking about the sale of Boulevard to Duvel. Well, maybe not that many people, but I am, damn it, because that's what I do. I've had some good discussions about the nature of craft beer and local breweries. Mostly people seem to be concerned with whether not this is a good thing for Kansas City and Boulevard, and a lot of people have questioned the relevance of a local brewery if it isn't locally owned. While people have brought up good issues regarding local craft breweries, no one seems to be talking about what I see as the most important aspect of having a local brewery: the beer! Only a local brewery can truly serve you fresh beer.

The freshest beer comes out of your basement. 
Before the 1870's, all beer was local because it had to be. Lots of the beer was produced at home, and the non-homebrewed beer was typically sold at a neighborhood brewpub on draft or in a growler. Beyond this, the beer wasn't shelf stable enough to transport nationally or internationally, thus the reason for having over 4000 breweries in the US at the time. This all changed with Anheuser-Busch in the 1870's with their introduction of refrigerated train cars and the use of pasteurization, and in the 1890's with the introduction of crown caps and cheap glass bottles. Yes, we have A-B to thank for the nationalization of the brewing industry. Bet you didn't seen that one coming! But no matter how much the macros might have you believe, just because beer is relatively shelf stable now doesn't mean that buying local isn't important.

Light and time kill a beer's flavor and aroma in short order. Light will make a beer skunky (within minutes of being in direct sunlight), especially if the beer isn't bottled in a brown bottle. (Unless, of course, the brown bottles sit in the sun in front of windows 24 hours a day. Not that any liquor store in town would let this happen...) More importantly, a beer will oxidize and change character over a short time period. Hops are the first thing to go. Those glorious iso-alpha acids and essential oils simply decompose and lose their bitterness, aroma and flavor. After a longer time, the beer will start to taste stale and it's aroma will take on a wet cardboard smell. Yummy! A very few styles of beer get better with age (mostly high alcohol, dark beers and sour beers) but they are definitely the exception to the rule.

Now realistically, the freshness of beer from any package brewery like Boulevard has more to do with the liquor store or bar you buy it at. But if you're buying from a good liquor store or bar that actually cares about their product and has a decent turnover rate, then the local beer will always be the freshest thing available. Of course, brew pubs don't even have this problem. If you buy beer at a brew pub, it's guaranteed to be fresh. The only way to get fresher beer is to brew it yourself.

There are obviously lots of other reasons to drink local as well. You create less waste, support the local economy, and create jobs in our city. You have access to the brewers and can give them feedback in person (no, anonymous online reviews don't count). And regardless of where the profits are going from a local brewery, it's still going to give you access to delicious fresh beer. And in my opinion, a super fresh average beer is always better than an old and stale world class beer. So go brew your own or drink some local beer! Do that, and we can go back to the good old '90's:

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