I was recently watching the cinematic masterpiece that is Pauly Shore’s Biodome and was inspired by the immortal words of Bud and Doyle. They find themselves scrutinized by their rather lithe female counterparts when they are moved to express the inspiration for their brave, dome-related activities by stating that not only are they “thinking locally” but also “acting globally”. It got me thinking about the beer market these days. For at least the last decade brewers have pushed the “drink local” mentality. I certainly understand this and, to some extent, agree with it. Particularly as a consumer, there are many benefits to the localism push, and those have been dealt with extensively by plenty of internet-based writing folks. Beer does, however, have a global facet that cannot, and indeed should not, be ignored.
The realities of the modern beer industry are that, particularly in the craft segment, ingredients come from all over the globe. Each pint you have at a brewpub or respectable beer bar likely has grain from at least two of the major malted grain producing nations such as America, Germany, Canada, France, and England. Hops are likely from a handful of the major hop producing regions across the globe with an increasing American experiment with hops from New Zealand and Australia. Fermentation organisms are likely from a lab on the American West Coast with the actual strain originating in one of a number of European countries. Other ingredients such as barrels, spices, fruits, and sugars can come from absolutely anywhere on Earth. You can have the world in your glass, and that’s a beautiful thing.
The global nature of beer doesn’t stop at the actual product either. When humankind began discovering ways to move itself around the globe, it also discovered ways to move its beer. The India Pale Ale style was born out of a need for British troops in India to have beer that didn’t spoil on its journey from Britain around Africa and up to India. Hops and alcohol are both natural antimicrobials which is why they are both present in greater quantities to protect the beer on its journey. As humans are even more globally mobile in the 21st century, so are their beers. It is not uncommon for a respectable beer bar to have brews from America, England, Belgium, Germany, and any number of other countries. As a brewer, I find it advantageous to have my beer available in a number of disparate geographic locations all over the globe. The Age of the Internet has dramatically changed the way the beer community communicates about products, and a global distribution model takes advantage of proverbial “word-of-mouth” promotion that has no geographical borders.
Beer has origins all over the world, ingredients from all over the world, sales all over the world, and consumers all over the world. To ignore the global facet of beer is to view an incomplete picture of it. We don’t have to stray far from the localism mantra to embrace the global nature of our most beloved product. Beer, like the Biodome is not about a city or a state or even a country. It’s about the world.
Until next time, faithful readers, thanks for reading, and happy drinks!
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