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Best Beer is Local

By Joe Laur |

With the explosion of craft beers produced by hundred of local breweries, you can always find local stuff.

Buying your beer locally, like anything else, helps support the lives and livelihoods of people right in your community, cuts pollution and fossil fuels used from shipping those heavy beers all across the world, and you get a fresh product that just can’t be matched in taste.

A rule of thumb is that the closer your beer is brewed to where you drink it, the “greener” it is. Shipping is a huge part of a beer’s environmental impact. Drink James Page when in Wisconsin, Berkshire Steel Rail Pale Ale in Massachusetts, and Red Hook in Seattle. Some small brewers have national distribution. Don’t buy it. Drink the local stuff. With the explosion of craft beers produced by hundred of local breweries, you can always find local stuff. Drinking Magic Hat in Hawaii or Heiner Brau in London defeats the purpose of local.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the brewery is when it comes to local. I enjoy a Leinenkugel Red when in Wisconsin, or an Anchor Steam in San Francisco. Some local breweries, like the 3 Western Massachusetts ones I’m featuring here, sell "growlers," half-gallon refillable bottles. Then you can take the bottles back to the brewery and exchange or refill them, eliminating all the packaging.

The chief environmental concern for beer is oil consumption and carbon monoxide, CO2 and nitrogen oxide emissions from those big diesel tractor trailers. In addition to eliminating the negative environmental consequences of fossil-fuel-guzzling long-haul transportation, many if not most local breweries practice environmental stewardship in their processes, ingredients and practices.

New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado was the first domestic brewery to use wind power to slash their carbon emissions. Currently 70 percent of the brewery's electricity comes from wind, with the rest generated from thermal and electric energy produced from their own wastewater. Green begets green: New Belgium saves up to $3,000 monthly by producing some of their own energy.

Here are my 3 favorite local breweries in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. We’re all in the same big watershed!

The People’s Pint, Greenfield, MA is a restaurant and community gathering spot as well as a great microbrewery. They practice a commitment to simplicity and a reliance on self and the local community. They brew their own beers which are also available for sale in local markets. Whenever possible, they serve organic foods supplied by local growers and producers. Their veggie burger is made by Lightlife in nearby Turners Falls, their certified organic sprouts are raised at The Gill Greenery, and my neighbors at the Diemand Farm in Wendell raise their eggs. They serve both food and beers in season, oriented around seasonal New England fruits and vegetables supplied by local farmers, and more distant foods like black beans, red beans, and rice are certified organic. All kitchen and dining room food scraps are composted and all plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and metal is recycled. No disposable plastic or paper items will appear on the table. All their brewery grain is composted, and even on the busiest night, they have never disposed of more than one barrel of trash.

The Berkshire Brewery in nearby Deerfield MA, is the largest local, producing over 580 barrels (17,980 gallons) of fresh beer each week. Berkshire beer is unfiltered, unpasteurized, with no additives or preservatives. Al their beers are available on tap or in returnable bottles and growlers, just like the beers Grandpa used to drink. They produce 9 year round brews and 7 seasonal beers. My favorite is Coffeehouse Porter, brewed using coffee extract from Greenopolis Partner Dean’s Beans. Coffeehouse Porter gets you buzzed and sober at the same time.

Element Brewing Company is the newest and tiniest, just 4 miles down the hill in Miller’s falls MA. It’s the "localest" beer I can find outside my own kitchen. I bottle my homemade cider in Element growlers. Their beer is all hand-crafted, offered in glass growlers and natural corked bottles only. They use ingredients, including heirloom grains, domestic and international hops, and their own specially developed signature yeast. Plus the same great water that all of us in the upper Connecticut River valley share. They brew an Extra Special Oak brown ale, Dark Matter black ale, and Red Giant red ale. Plus they offer Element TV, a live video feed from their brewing room. How’s that for transparency!

Find YOUR Local Beers

Here is a list of regional beer producers. I’m working on trying them all. List your favorites in the comments section:

Midwest

Arcadia Brewing Co. (Battle Creek, MI)
Capital Brewery (Middleton, WI)
Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH)
James Page Brewing Co. (Stevens Point, WI)
Summit Brewing Co. (St. Paul, MN)
Two Brothers Brewing (Warrenville, IL)

Northeast
Berkshire Brewing Company (South Deerfield, MA)
Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)
Flying Bison Brewery (Buffalo, NY)
Gritty McDuff's (Portland, ME)
Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA)
Magic Hat Brewing Company (Burlington, VT)
Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown, PA)
Wachusett Brewing Company (Westminster, MA)

Northwest
Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)
Engine House No. 9 Brewery (Tacoma, WA)
Full Sail Brewing Company (Hood River, OR)
McMenamins (Portland, OR)
Pyramid Ales and Lagers (Seattle, WA)
Red Hook Brewery (Seattle, Washington)
Rogue Ales (Ashland, OR)

Southeast
Abita Brewing Company (Abita Springs, LA)
Bluegrass Brewing Company (Louisville, KY)
Covington Brewhouse (Covington, LA)
Sweetwater Brewing Company (Atlanta, GA)

Southwest
Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, CA)
Four Peaks Brewery (Tempe, AZ)
New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO)
North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg, CA)
Sierra Blanca Brewing Company (Moriarty, NM)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA)
Wynkoop Brewing Company (Denver, CO)

Skoal!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Nancy K. 4 years ago
    Try this... www.beerme.com to find local breweries.
  • Nancy K. 4 years ago
    There are no listings for NJ? I am almost sure that there are some here.
  • doreen d. 4 years ago
    I always like to try new beers that are brewed near home
  • Ben B. 4 years ago
    Sierra Nevada Brewery in California is also a very "Green Brewery". Check our there web page at www.sierranevada.com Both Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are building new breweries in North Carolina to help reduce the transportation cost and environmental inpact of transporting their beer across the nation for all to enjoy!!!
  • shannon b. 4 years ago
    New Glarus Brewing Company - New Glarus, WI
    As of right now, New Glarus beverages are not sold outside the Wisconsin border.
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