One of the more interesting aspects of the Live Local challenge has been the responses that people in the community have. Rather unexpectedly one night, while having a drink at the Soapbox, my friend, Ted, turned to me and said, “So you know your local thing? I’m doing that with beer.” Needless to say this non sequitur got my attention.
“What?” I responded.
“Yeah, I’m not drinking corporate beer this year; it’s my New Year’s Resolution.”
Needless to say, Ted expanded upon his plan. Here is what he had to say.
encore: So, what is your New Year’s resolution, exactly?
Ted Roberts (TR): To not purchase beers owned/brewed by, and therefore not give any money to, [large corporations]. As someone who supports local/regional breweries and someone who is quite proud of the breweries within our great state, I felt like this would be a good goal. I do what I can to support smaller businesses in other aspects of my life, so why not with beer?
e: What led to this?
TR: For quite some time I have worked at the Juggling Gypsy. The Gypsy prides itself on its beer selection; while we do serve products owned by the large behemoths, they are never what you will find on special, and any bartender will try to suggest a better version of whatever domestic beer you might try to order. This is both to promote the small craft brewers and because the quality of domestics is generally low. In the same way that you get better service at the general store than at Walmart, the people that brew their beer without the opinions of shareholders and corporate bureaucrats being forced into the process of something that has been treated like art in the past. There’s a reason that smaller brewers are called craft brewers.
This was already on my mind when I saw the documentary “Beer Wars” late last year. The film covers the differences in the way smaller brewers and the large companies (InBev and MillerCoors). I’ve worked for a massive corporation, and I’ve worked for small local businesses. I don’t buy goods from the massive corporation I worked for because I don’t want to support what they do, having seen it from the inside. “Beer Wars” and the other sources of information for me have caused me to apply that opinion to beer as well.
e: How hard has it been?
TR: Honestly, it’s been fun so far. I feel better knowing more about the brewers that make the beer I drink. . . . one fantastic thing about living in this area is that we have some great breweries owned and operated in North Carolina. Duck Rabbit and Highland are amazing, and the majority of the places I would even consider buying beer from carry them.
I feel better knowing that the money I spend is helping out smaller brewers and factoring into the statistics that owners look at to decide where their money goes. The difficult part is finding out certain things about breweries I like. I used to drink a lot of beer from Leinenkugel’s, a Wisconsin brewery that had been family owned since 1867. I knew they had been around that long, but I did not know until recently that they were bought out by Miller in the late ‘80s.
e: Has our community benefited?
TR: From my decision? I’m not in a place to say. But any community benefits when people that are doing something locally recognized. During the same time period that I’ve started trying to do this, I have seen a friend of mine try to start homebrewing. Based on my own research about the subject, I’ve discovered others who were making their stuff at home before I came across this concept. Maybe the community has benefited, but I think I’ve benefited more by discovering more about my own community.
e: Where do you find beer that meets the criteria?
TR: I definitely must mention Cape Fear Wine & Beer and Satellite. I know there are other bars around town with a good selection but those are the main two that really have what I want—a product that is close to home, either in location or in the heart of the product being sold, and a staff that cares just as much as the people that made the product and the people that buy the product. Front Street Brewery is an obvious choice, since they brew beer less than two miles from my apartment.
e: Suggestions for others who might want to get started?
TR: Make a list of the beer you already drink. Do some research on the Internet and find out who owns the breweries that make those beers. You will be surprised by some of it. Go to places like Cape Fear Wine & Beer, or spend some time on beeradvocate.com, and you will find a different approach to what you already like made by a craft brewer that will probably taste much better.