"Do you think this will be OK to send?" he asked.
What Dave meant was "are my bubble-wrapping skills sufficient to prevent the recipient of this parcel from having to mentally reconstruct from the aroma of stale hops and soggy paper what this bottle of Driftwood Singularity might have tasted like whilst plucking shards of shattered bomber glass from his fingers."
"No, you'll probably need to buttress the ends with a wedge of cardboard," I said.
But it occurred to me just then that it might not be OK to send it for another reason...
Permit me to generalize, but beer lovers tend to wear on their sleeves a strong social conscience and eco-friendly credentials. Ask a "crafty" why they eschew macro breweries and they are likely to cite unethical business practices, environmental disregard and crummy working conditions — not just the piss-poor quality of the product.
Beer Karma rating, or to earn a pointless Untappd badge. Should we do it? And is it worth it?
The biggest issue is that the environmental cost of transporting beer — a product with a high weight:value ratio — is significant. I'm fairly green-minded; not because I am particularly morally virtuous, but because any other stance in the face of current evidence seems to be grossly irresponsible. I drink my fair share of imports, but I'm very pleased when local brewers produce previously unavailable styles so that I don't feel the need to. The green beer point has been made on several other websites already.
But there are other reasons to stick to local where possible that have nothing to do with the environment but everything to do with improving the quality of the beer you drink. Here are a few I can think of:
- The beer is almost certainly going to be fresh. This is critically important for many styles of beer. How on earth can people expect to evaluate and review a cultish double IPA from the US, for example, if it has been sat in a warm warehouse at customs for six weeks before you get anywhere near it?
- Supporting local producers is not just a kind thing to do, it will also put money in their pockets that they can use to expand their offerings — meaning a local source of quads, sours and imperial pilsners is much more likely to emerge.
- You will usually get better value. I recently came across a bottle of Phillips Amnesiac going for $16 in a bar in Ontario where local (and better, in my opinion) equivalents were sold for under a tenner. There are exotic imports selling for a packet in your local beer store that are considered to be very ordinary by those who live near the breweries — bear that in mind.
- Finally, I don't know about you, but I get a shed-load more pleasure drinking a beer made by a guy who I either know or am likely to bump into in a local pub on any given night.