Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap

Post originally Published January 18, 2024 || Last Updated January 18, 2024

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Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - The Craft Beer Craze Continues

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap

The craft beer craze that has swept across America over the past decade shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the number of small, independent breweries continues to grow at a staggering rate. According to the Brewers Association, the total number of craft breweries in the U.S. approached 9,000 in 2022, more than double the figure from just 10 years prior.

So what is fueling this explosion in craft brewing? Perhaps the most significant factor is consumer demand. The interest in high-quality, flavorful beers made close to home has reached an all-time high. Beer lovers are eager to experiment with the ever-expanding array of styles and flavors being churned out by their neighborhood brewmasters. IPAs, sours, goses, and stouts in countless variations line the taps at bars and fill the shelves of bottle shops.
The localization of the beer industry also appeals to many drinkers' desires to support small businesses and connect with their communities. Sampling a flight at the new nano-brewery down the block or filling a growler from the mobile canning truck at the farmers' market offers a tangible way to boost the local economy and mingle with neighbors.

Brewers are tapping into this craving for hyper-local connections by incorporating local flavors and ingredients into their recipes. From Texas kolaches to Maine lobsters to Rocky Mountain spruce tips, brewers aim to distill their region's essence into liquid form. Limited small-batch releases and collaborations between neighboring breweries further strengthen local beer bonds.
Of course, the craft beer trend is not just an American phenomenon. Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and across Europe have thriving craft beer cultures. This provides the opportunity for flavor exploration through beers from around the world. Beloved domestic breweries are even setting up satellite locations overseas to bring their beers directly to thirsty fans abroad.
The possibilities seem endless when it comes to craft beer styles, flavors, and branding. While the India Pale Ale remains king, brewmasters continue to push boundaries with experimental flavors like peanut butter, coffee, and even dill pickle. Some need no more than a bit of hops, malt, yeast and water to concoct their liquid magic.
With so much variety to sample, many devotees are making a hobby out of planning brewery crawls near and far. Visiting multiple local breweries in a day or hitting up beer destinations like Portland, Maine and Asheville, North Carolina on vacation provides exciting ways to dive deep into craft beer culture. Homebrewing clubs, beer yoga, pairing dinners, and festivals round out the craft beer lifestyle.

What else is in this post?

  1. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - The Craft Beer Craze Continues
  2. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Supporting Small Businesses, One Pint at a Time
  3. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Tapping into Your Community
  4. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Flavors from Around the World
  5. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Experimenting with New Styles
  6. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Food Pairings That Complement the Brew
  7. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Beer Yoga and Other Brew-Inspired Activities
  8. Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Planning a Local Brewery Crawl

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Supporting Small Businesses, One Pint at a Time

Sipping a perfectly poured pint at your neighborhood brewpub goes far beyond simple refreshment. That frothy brew represents a tangible opportunity to boost small business and bring vibrancy to your local community.

Unlike the massive macro-breweries that dominate the global beer market, craft breweries are typically independently owned and operate on a much smaller scale. They are the very definition of small business. With fewer than 500 employees on average, these plucky beer startups rely on engaged local customers and word-of-mouth marketing to grow their fledgling operations.

Urban centers like Denver, San Diego, and Grand Rapids have seen entire neighborhoods revived by the arrival of craft breweries. Once-abandoned industrial spaces get reinvented as hip brewpubs and tasting rooms. These brewery districts draw crowds that support complementary businesses like restaurants, shops, and lodging. Tourism revenue flows in as beer trails attract out-of-town visitors.

By supporting independent craft breweries, beer lovers can directly influence this positive transformation in their communities. For example, buying a pint at your local brewpub on a weeknight can be the sales boost that enables them to buy more ingredients, hire another bartender, or stay open later. Spreading the word about new breweries you discover helps get their names out there. Even snapping some photos to share on social media generates valuable publicity.
Of course, drinking local goes far beyond just geographical proximity. There is a deeper cultural element of connecting with the stories and personalities behind each brewery. Learning about the head brewer's lifelong passion for creating the perfect saison or tasting a beer named after the owner's daughter builds an emotional link. So does chatting with fellow regulars at the same favorite taproom every week. These bonds foster a sense of belonging and identity.
For Erika Allen, supporting local breweries dovetails with her interests in sustainability and social justice. Allen regularly hosts "craft beer crawls" focused on minority-owned breweries in the Twin Cities as a way to promote inclusivity. She also researches breweries with eco-friendly practices. To Allen, every pint presents an opportunity to catalyze change through mindful consumer choices.

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Tapping into Your Community

There's no better way to tap into your local community than by visiting your neighborhood brewpubs and craft breweries. These small businesses offer the perfect opportunity to connect with fellow residents and immerse yourself in hometown pride. Unlike the anonymous experience of drinking a mass-produced lager, craft breweries provide an authentic sense of place. As Torsten discovered on a visit to the Rhinegeist Brewery during a weekend getaway to Cincinnati, "I instantly felt part of the community while sipping their Truth IPA overlooking the busy taproom."

By supporting hyper-local breweries, you directly contribute to the culture and economy of your city. Neighborhoods flourish when small businesses like brewpubs set up shop. Formerly vacant buildings get rehabbed into vibrant destinations like Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse's Slugger Field outpost in the revitalized Butchertown neighborhood of Louisville. Property values rise, tourism expands, and jobs get created. As Torsten observed during Seattle's craft beer boom, "the arrival of breweries like Fremont, Cloudburst, and Holy Mountain literally transformed entire city blocks that had been deserted after the decline of industry there."

Of course, the community-building magic of craft beer goes deeper than economic benefits. There's a culture and identity that develops around beloved neighborhood breweries. Regulars chat about local happenings over pints at Spice Trade Brewing during Lakewood, Colorado's First Friday Art Walks. Softball teams wrap up their seasons over award ceremonies at Third Window Brewing in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Locals feel that hometown pride every time they see cans of Melvin Brewing from Alpine, Wyoming or Lawson's Finest Liquids from Waitsfield, Vermont stocked in the cooler. As Torsten noted during a roadtrip through Vermont, "you instantly feel that swell of local pride when you spot cans of your hometown heroes far from home."

For many patrons, their corner taproom becomes a second home filled with friends, memories, and traditions. Alan sips cream ales every Tuesday night at Civil Society Brewing near his office in Jupiter, Florida before hitting the links on Wednesdays after his weekly golf league wraps up at Due South Brewing in Boynton Beach. Maureen never misses a Saturday afternoon catching up with her college roommate at Whistle Post Brewing Co. in South Charleston, West Virginia over blueberry lagers made with local fruit. The breweries themselves lean into their roles as community institutions by hosting events like yoga meetups, live music showcases, book clubs, and craft markets.

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Flavors from Around the World

While supporting local establishments may be top of mind for many craft beer enthusiasts, exploring global flavors can provide an exciting new dimension to one’s beer journey. In our increasingly interconnected world, tapping into international influences brings the diversity of worldwide brewing traditions right to your pint glass.
As Torsten discovered on a trip to Japan, "Sampling the refreshing citrus-forward flavors of shikanoshō sake-infused IPAs at Kiuchi Brewery illuminated an entirely new approach to craft brewing for me." The disruptive innovation of Brasserie Cantillon's spontaneously fermented lambic beers fascinated Torsten on a visit to Belgium: "With their stunning depth of tart, funky flavors, Cantillon's beers opened my palate to the dazzling diversity that brewmasters around the world are creating."

Experimenting with ethnic flavors need not require globe-trotting, however. International ingredients and techniques are finding their way into breweries abroad. Imaginative brewers are using signature local ingredients to put a new spin on classic styles from afar. For example, Dorchester Brewing Company in Massachusetts makes a tropical twist on a traditional English bitter by brewing it with toasted coconut, an integral ingredient in West Indian cuisine popular throughout Boston. Norway's Lervig Aktiebryggeri brews its Lucky Jack American pale ale with native fjord seaweed to replicate the briny notes traditionally achieved using British hops.

Collaborations between brewers across borders also facilitate a fusion of international influences. During a trip to Estonia, Torsten was fascinated by an experimental sahti beer from Põhjala Brewery created in partnership with Ohio's Brew Kettle. While staying true to the ancient Finnish style using traditional rye malts, juniper branches, and birch bark, they added an American twist using citrusy new world hops.

Seeking out imports at local bottle shops and attending events like Chef Shack Ranch's Beer and Curry Festival held near Torsten's hometown of Minneapolis provide more gateways to experience global brewing culture. "I was able to try South African township beer, a traditional Peruvian chicha de jora corn beer, and even Mongolian airag fermented from mare's milk all in one place!" Torsten recalled.
Travel itself presents perhaps the most immersive opportunity to tap into beer styles from around the world straight from the source. "Sipping unfiltered Kellerbier at a Munich beer hall gave me a new appreciation for German brewing tradition," Torsten shared after a trip to Oktoberfest. On a Belgium cycling tour, flavors of bright, funky gueuze lambics and potent Belgian strong ales left an indelible impression at centuries-old Trappist breweries like Orval and Chimay. Exploring the exploded craft beer scene in Spain gives Torsten excitement about where unexpected innovation will arise next.

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Experimenting with New Styles

The proliferation of craft brewing has spawned an explosion of innovative new beer styles beyond the classic pilsners, IPAs and stouts. Adventurous brewmasters are eagerly experimenting by pushing flavor boundaries and reviving ancient techniques. For the beer lover, sampling these cutting-edge creations opens up thrilling new dimensions of taste and aroma. As Torsten discovered on a trip to the Scratch Brewing Company near St. Louis, "tasting their carrot, sweet potato and cherry wood-smoked beers showed me just how far you can push the limit of ingredients while still creating something delightful."

On a visit to New York City, Torsten was fascinated by the unusual flavors at breweries like Other Half, LIC Beer Project and KCBC. "Trying their double dry-hopped DIPAs, cucumber goses and pastry stouts brewed with ingredients like coconut and vanilla was an eye-opening lesson in innovation," Torsten said. Some common experiments that intrigue drinkers include hybrid styles like India Pale Lagers, fruited sours, and coffee-infused dark beers. Botanical ingredients like spruce tips, chamomile, and ginger add herbal, floral notes. Spice additions like coriander, pink peppercorns, and cardamom mix things up.

Heirloom grains like rye, spelt and millet provide new malt complexity, as does incorporation of alternative fermentables like honey, maple syrup and molasses. Barrel-aging beers in vessels that once held spirits or wine imparts oaky, spirituous depth. Mixed-culture fermentation using wild yeast strains creates funky, tart flavors. Obscure historical re-creations pique the curiosity of history buffs through ancient ingredients like bog myrtle, heather flowers and juniper branches. Some brewers even make beers designed to perfectly pair with specific foods like pizza, tacos and barbecue.
Experimentation allows brewmasters to highlight local terroir as well. As Torsten discovered on a trip to Maine, "Tasting Oxbow Brewing's farmhouse ale fermented with their own wild blueberry yeast showcased how native yeasts can create a true taste of place." Foraging hyper-local ingredients like spruce tips, beach plums and chanterelle mushrooms offers another way to capture an essence of locality.

While some experiments are hits, others can be definite misses according to drinkers' preferences. "Gruit ales flavored with flowering plants instead of hops taste refreshing and unusual," Torsten shared. "But beers I've tried brewed with ingredients like lobster, turkey gravy and tomato juice all just seemed a bit too gimmicky." Still, experimentation overall provides excitement for Torsten. "Not knowing exactly what you'll get when tasting a new beer makes exploration so rewarding."

Through events like tap takeovers, tasting menus and mixed packs, drinkers can sample a wide range of experimental new brews without committing to full pours. Brewery tours offer peeks inside the creative process. Homebrewers even get to become inventors through designing their own new recipes. "Brewing a batch of lemongrass chamomile saison with friends illuminated the intricacies of crafting a balanced experimental beer," Torsten explained.

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Food Pairings That Complement the Brew

Pairing food with beer may seem like an afterthought, but the right match-ups can draw out exciting new dimensions in both drink and dish. As Torsten discovered at a beer dinner at Surly Brewing during a trip to Minneapolis, "the pairing of a peppery rye saison with a boldly spiced chorizo taco amplified the flavors beautifully on each side." Exploration of beer and food affinities has become a key part of the overall craft brew experience.

Beyond basic pub fare, restaurants now design entire beer dinner menus centered around creative pairings. For his friend's birthday, Torsten attended an elaborate five course meal at Jack's Abby Craft Lagers in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Each dish artfully played off the malty, biscuity notes in the lagers. The rich oxtail ragout accentuated the Dunkel beautifully." Pairing dinners hosted at brewpubs or breweries themselves offer perfect opportunities to taste how different beers interact with food.
Adventurous at-home cooks also enjoy experimenting with beer matches by incorporating brews within recipes or as an accompaniment. During a cooking class focused on beer, Torsten was thrilled to learn how beer's carbonation and acidic qualities make it a leavening agent and tenderizer. "Adding a fruity hefeweizen to the batter of the fried chicken gave it an awesome extra crunchy crust." Beyond cooking, beers lend complexity, accentuate flavors and cut richness when thoughtfully paired.
Certain beer styles have natural affinities with particular foods. For example, Gose beers brewed with coriander and salt intensify flavors when served with seafood like shrimp, oysters, and ceviche. The citrusy, peppery notes of Belgian witbiers and German hefeweizens beautifully accentuate the bright flavors of salads, chicken and fish. Fruit lambics work magic alongside desserts, especially those incorporating the beer's matching fruit.

Weight and intensity levels between beer and dish should be balanced. Light beers suit delicate flavors, while bold brews match strongly flavored foods. Hosting a potluck with recipes incorporating or paired with beer makes for an especially fun gathering. "My favorite match-up was the creaminess of the dilled Havarti mac and cheese that really sang alongside the hearty, malty Dunkel I brought," Torsten fondly recalled.

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Beer Yoga and Other Brew-Inspired Activities

Beyond simply drinking beer, creative experiences like beer yoga allow devotees to immerse themselves fully in craft beer culture. Torsten gave this unique activity a try during a trip to Bend, Oregon. “Flowing through vinyasa sequences in a brewery tasting room before enjoying a flight of beers made for an unforgettable and lighthearted experience,” Torsten recalled.

Beer yoga offers the mind-body benefits of yoga along with the social bonding and relaxation of sharing beer. Adding elements like inversion poses and partner stretches encourages laughter and connection. Some studios even integrate the brews within the practice through activities like “bottoms up” inversions tapping the heart chakra. Holding yoga postures while sampling small pours helps participants focus on the beer’s aromas. Guided breathing directs attention to the subtleties of taste and mouthfeel.
Besides yoga, activities like beer bike tours offer active ways to explore brewery neighborhoods. On a visit to Austin, Torsten joined a group bike ride between breweries along the fun murals and street art scattered around the funky East Side. “Pedaling from one taproom to the next with friends provided an awesome buzz of endorphins along with a buzz from the beers!” Torsten shared.

For those wanting a chill brewery experience, beer painting classes allow creativity to flow alongside pints. Torsten tried his hand at acrylic pouring to create an abstract piece to take home. “Sipping a peachy sour beer as I poured bold stripes of orange and pink across the canvas put me in the perfect relaxed headspace for an art session unlike any I’d experienced,” Torsten recalled.

Games and beer pair up at brewpubs hosting trivia nights that animate weeknights. Cornhole tournaments, ping pong leagues, giant Jenga and other oversized recreation energize patios and tasting rooms. Amateur sports teams head to their sponsor brewpubs post-game to bond and celebrate. Torsten joined a kickball league sponsored by Indeed Brewing. “High fiving teammates over a refreshing pilsner and wood-fired pizza after games made our season way more fun,” Torsten said.

For those who want a fully beer-centric getaway, campgrounds like the Brewdog DogTap hotel in Ohio offer beer-themed accommodation along with activities like hop picking. “Waking up in a beer-themed cabin after sampling flights by the campfire created an experience that fully celebrated my favorite drink,” Torsten said.

Hop to It! Ales and Lagers Your Local Needs on Tap - Planning a Local Brewery Crawl

With so many craft breweries sprouting up across cities these days, one of the most exciting ways for beer lovers to dive deep into the local scene is by embarking on a brewery crawl. Torsten has planned many memorable crawls that provided an illuminating crash course on his hometown's brewing culture. "Mapping out a day hitting up Chicago's Malt Row along Ravenswood Avenue was the perfect orientation for my first weekend after moving to the city," Torsten recalled.

When plotting an itinerary, clustering breweries located near each other streamlines logistics and cuts down on transit time. Tools like Google Maps make it easy to visualize brewery proximity. However, Torsten advises having contingencies in place in case a spot has an epic wait or unexpected closure. "On a crawl in Bend, Oregon, I was thankful I had researched back-ups nearby when Crux Fermentation Project had a two hour line out the door," Torsten said.

To maximize variety, Torsten suggests sampling a mix of brewery types including heavy-hitting flagships, smaller nanobreweries focused on experimentation, and hyper-local neighborhood taps. "Hitting the trifecta of Kent Falls, Fox Farm, and Beer'd in rural Connecticut showed me the range of craft brewing in the state beyond just New England IPAs," Torsten shared.
Beyond beer itself, Torsten stresses the importance of taking in the vibe and character of each spot. "From the craft cocktails and upscale small plates at Allegheny City Brewing in Pittsburgh to the family-friendly dog park at Indeed Brewing in Minneapolis, every brewery has its own identity," he explained.
Timing beer crawls to coincide with special events makes them even more memorable. Visiting Arizona Wilderness Brewing during a vintage VW van meet showed Torsten how breweries can be central gathering spots for niche communities. "The parking lot filled with colorful retro vans while indie bands played created such a festive atmosphere," he recalled.
To help pace consumption, Torsten alternates beer orders with snacks, shares flights, and stays properly hydrated. He also uses transit like pedicabs or his own two feet between stops whenever possible. "Walking between breweries in Portland, Maine's East Bayside neighborhood gave us a chance to appreciate the striking street art scene," Torsten said.
Some additional elements Torsten folds in when designing a crawl include guided brewery tours to appreciate production, chatting with taproom staff to learn backstories, seeking out cool branded merchandise, and collecting stamps in loyalty passports many breweries offer. "I loved learning the century-long family history behind Bruno's Brewery on a crawl in Huntington, West Virginia," Torsten recalled.

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