Drink locally or think globally?

by Mark Tichenor

Finger Lakes Region beer lovers rejoice! Another legendary brewery is entering our area. Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan, will be on tap in Rochester this May.

That’s a big win; Founders’ beer is consistently some of the best and most highly rated in the country. Currently it’s sought after by beer traders, and many a Rochesterian visitor to the Midwest is pestered to bring a trunkload home for friends. But the imminent arrival of Founders also gives some pause for thought and reflection about our own local beer, as well as the direction of the craft beer industry.

National, or at least regional, distribution is crucial to an ambitious craft brewery’s success. A beermaking operation is an expensive small business to start up and run, and many places simply don’t have the market size in their home regions to expand. Getting the beer to other markets is often the necessary solution.

We crazy beer lovers benefit from that necessity, and from the fact that there’s a mad-effecient distribution structure already set up to handle it. Because of this, you can walk into the right small-town pub and pick up a menu of the best American beers. Stone Brewing, Green Flash, Victory, Lagunitas, and now Founders. It’s a dilemma just to choose.

But there’s a downside as well. Having easy access to beers from every region makes the beers, well, a bit less special. Things homogenize; they’re no longer rare treats, rather just some more beers on the tapline. It also takes away some of the joys of vacation. Travel is a bit less fun when the unique tastes of a city on the other side of the continent are familiar to you from your barstool back home.

This national distribution also adds a huge weight of competition for our local brewers. That is as it should be. It prevents complacency among our own scene and awakens the creative fire in our local brewmasters.

In that sense, it’s gratifying to see how adeptly our guys can hang with the big boys. From Jamestown to Canandaigua, brewers in Western New York and the Finger Lakes are producing more exciting beer than ever before, beer that can stack up, sip for sip, to anything the glitzy rock star breweries can keg and ship.

So bring it on, Founders Brewing. We Rochester beer lovers welcome you with open arms and open taps. We will rejoice in your deliciousness. Just don’t be surprised if, at some point, a Finger Lakes brewery succeeds in creating something just a tad more special.

In other beers:
The Rohrbach Brewing Company is reviving their Brewtopia series of beer socials, complete with talks given by the brewers and an insight into Rochester’s beer history. You can join them at the Railroad Street brewery as they pair their own beer and that of the Roc Brewing Company with tasty, tasty food on April 25th. The cost is $12. More information is available at (585) 594-9800 or at rohrbachs. com

There’s a new startup in the works. The Fairport Brewing Company jumped some major hurdles on its path to opening for business, receiving their Federal license. Tom and Tim recently held their first community sampling at the Fairport Village Inn, and will surely be doing more of that around the area. Find them at fairportbrewing.com

Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at beercraft.wordpress.com. Find him on Twitter @beercraft. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.


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