Friday, July 22, 2011

What makes a great beer city?

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Sometime this month Travel and Leisure Magazine posted their results of a survey put towards their readers about where they think is the best beer city in the country. The list of cities can be found here. It got me to thinking about what makes a great beer city.

Obviously you need good beer, but what is more important: the variety of beer available (locally made beer or beer imported from elsewhere)? Do you need a lot of beer bars in a great beer city? What role does homebrewing play, if any, in fostering a great beer city?

In my opinion, a lot goes into making & maintaining a great beer city. The beer is paramount, but I think the beer needs to be made locally or at least within the state the 'beer city' is in.

Having a great variety of beer available is important, but I think that the emphasis needs to be put on beer made in your part of the world. Besides, anyone can import great beer, but if you do not have great local offerings, the beer fans in your area may travel out of your local market. This exodus removes tax revenue from the local market and does nothing to foster the creation of a local brewery/breweries.

Another key to a great beer city is an active homebrewing community. Specifically, one that is passionate and approachable by people within and outside of it. I believe that such a homebrewing community is important because it is the homebrewing community that will provide some of the most honest, yet constructive, criticism of a beer (compared to a non-homebrewer) to anyone that asks (or does not) for feedback. They won't blow hot air up your skirt if your beer is bad, but they will offer advice on how to improve your beer (if they can).

A great beer city needs to have beer festivals and beer bars. That is not to say that every city needs a festival the size of the GABF, NHC or Great Taste of the Midwest. Nor am I saying that every beer city needs a bar with the renown of the Map Room, Hopleaf, the Toronado, the Great Lost Bear or Ebenezer's Pub. What I am saying is that every great beer city needs to provide opportunities for beer fans to gather, enjoy, and geek out over a beer/beers that they love.

Finally, I think a great beer city needs to have people that are interested in beer. Everyone starts somewhere on their path to beer enlightenment, and it does not matter where a person starts as long as they keep progressing. So, do you think your city/town/area qualifies as a beer city/town/area?

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