On Being Local

Session #61 of the beer carnival known as The Session asks if local is better. For us, in Lexington, Kentucky, we now have a local brewery, Country Boy and another on its way, West 6th. We have local places to drink at such as The Beer Trappe and Lexington Beerworks. We, too, can finally discuss “local” in a manner that means more than produced at least 100 miles away. Whether or not ingredients are local matters little to me. Local is an experience as much as it is a sourcing.

Local also is a state of convenience. I could say something about sitting at Country Boy and having a local beer, but it opens at 4pm, and that is about the time I have to go pick up one of my kids. I’ve had the chance to pick up a growler over the weekend and completely enjoyed the beer, Snake Bite, I filled. But since Country Boy does not serve food, it’s not a place for kids, and for us, that means fewer local trips for the weekend. I need a beer buddy or “errand” that will get me down there on a Saturday or Sunday for an hour or so. Note to readers: if you live in Lexington and want to be my beer buddy, this is a pretty easy gig to get. Application should read: let’s meet and share some beer.

Thus, given these family constraints, local often means our house. During the storm that passed us by last night, for instance, we crowded next to to a beer source which is about as local as we can get in our house, my beer cellar, conveniently located next to the basement bedroom that serves as our shelter. I drank a very non-local but bought locally Two Hearted to prepare for the storm. I drank a very non-local Fifty Fifty Eclipse Grand Cru with no local purchase or connection to breathe some relief at getting passed over by the storm.

Kentucky Proud is the slogan of local in the bluegrass state. Against the Grain is the Louisville brewery/brewpub I wish were really local (it’s about 70 miles away). New Albanian is the non-Kentucky brewery/brewpub that should be thought of as local (it’s basically in suburban Louisville on the Indiana side of things). Sometimes, though, buying local means buying non-local. If Shelton Brothers would only come back to Lexington as they have done in Louisville, I could spend money locally rather than in Louisville or some other city I’m visiting regularly such as Cincinnati or Asheville. While many focus on local as in “locally sourced” or “locally produced,” local is also that state of keeping money within one’s community. Being able to buy Mikkeller/Cantillon/Anchorage/Fantome in Lexington and not in Louisville is a local act of consumption: a local retail operation can remain in business with additional sales. There are limits to such consumption (distribution is not universal), but there are also opportunities for local business in  a city of almost 300,000 people where craft or high quality non-American beers remain a mystery to many who drink locally.

Local is the produce available at the Farmers’ Market. Local is the meat raised and sold in this area. Local is also the act of spending within one’s community and not sending all of one’s income to another country, state, or city. Then wouldn’t all purchasing be local? Not exactly. Walmart dollars (except, in a very minor sense, for salaries) leave the community en mass. Buying Danish beer at a shop owned by someone from Lexington who employs half a dozen people and pays taxes to the city keeps more than salary here. It builds a community of places, connections, events, and atmosphere.  Local is community as much as it is sourcing or material.