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August 5, 2008

Mug Shots

Local beer keeps it near

Pilsner-style golden lagers take their name from the Czech city of Plzen, where the style was invented more than 150 years ago. Champagne is the French regional style of sparkling wine. In terms of both beverages and food — Munster cheese, frankfurters, bologna — humans have tended to associate distinctive varieties with their places of origin. 

Whereas the term “pilsner” has passed from the specific to the generic, the use of “champagne” as an appellation is protected, as is “bourbon” closer to home. Interestingly, while most golden beers brewed in the Czech Republic resemble Plzen’s favorite son, Pilsner Urquell, beer drinkers there reserve the use of “pilsner” only for Urquell and a few of its offshoots. 

To me, one of the good things about the internationalization of mass-market brewing is that albeit it unintentional, the multinational brewing phenomenon has prompted renewed discussion as to the nature and practice of local, small-scale brewing and beer cultures. 

Miller merged with SAB, and then Coors combined with Molson, and more recently A-B was absorbed by InBev, and finally — finally — I hear American beer drinkers contemplating aloud the origins and ownership of beer. 

If you’re concerned that the beer you drink be American, then the choice is perfectly clear: It’s time to trade away from far-off corporate brewers and trade up to locally brewed craft beer. 

Granted, some of the ingredients used by Bluegrass Brewing, Browning’s, Cumberland Brews and NABC come from overseas, and to be sure, the styles these breweries produce represent a global amalgam. However, as author Stacy Mitchell notes in her book, “The Hometown Advantage”: “Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.”

Substitute “multinational brewery” for “chain store” and the analogy holds. Keep Louisville Weird … drink local beer.


Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.