Do you prefer your beer local or foreign? If I had to answer that question, I’d say BOTH. Sometimes, I enjoy a freshly made, locally crafted ale. Other times, I like to venture into foreign types.
But the real question is which is better? Many believe it’s better to have internationally shipped beer from well-established brewers and local beer is nothing but a “trend.”
And yes, this may be a fair argument to have; but scientifically, locally brewed beer can be a lot more than just a fad. It has a “fresh-from-the-oven” taste many drinkers actually prefer.
Local brew is fresher. The guys over at Beer Menus believe that makes it better—they have the science to prove it.
Some Beer Science!
Beer can possibly lose some of its flavors over time, which can occur during the delivery process. Sometimes, distributors have to throw away beer because of this. If Beer is shipped from far away, it has more time to deteriorate, which makes it lose some of its flavors—this actually happens rather quickly.
Budweiser reportedly begins to deteriorate around the four-month mark.
Four months may seem like a long-enough time, but the four-month period only applies if the conditions are perfect. It must be stored in the dark and at a temperature of about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Occasionally, these conditions aren’t always met while shipping it cross-country.
And as you can see in the image above, a lot of beer goes through a distributor before it’s sent to retailers, which adds thousands of more miles before it reaches the shelf. According to HenHouse Brewing Company founder Collin McDonnell, it can sometimes take weeks to ship. Because of this, the brew passes from person to person. In that process, a lot can happen.
Storage time, light exposure and temperature changes are some of the small factors that play a large role in increasing the speed of deterioration. Local beer, on the other hand, takes a lot-less time to get to the shelves so it maintains much of its freshness.
“Fresh beer is the best beer. Some beer is brewed to age these days, but most beer is better the quicker it’s consumed post-fermentation and better the less it fluctuates in temperature,” Brooklyn’s 61 Local beer-buyer Troy Wennet said in an interview.
Any beer drinker can attest to the fact that taste plays a very important role in the pleasure of drinking.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it. What actually causes a brew to deteriorate? There is a fancy, chemical term for it—OXIDATION. Basically, oxygen gets into the beer and reacts with the chemicals in it—e.g., hops. This ultimately changes the taste. Many people compare drinking oxidized beer to tasting wet cardboard.
Long shipping and all the many factors, like change in temperature and light, can all increase the speed of oxidization. So if you’ve ever drank an ale that tastes like wet cardboard, you know why.
But oxidization is just one of the problems though. There’s also skunking to worry about. This occurs when a brew becomes exposed to light and the acidic, hop compounds react to become a chemical called 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol. This chemical is commonly found in the spray emitted by skunks. Hence the name, “skunked beer.”
You might think it takes a long time for skunking to happen, but actually, it can happen within minutes to an unprotected brew. This is why beer is usually stored in brown bottles rather than green or clear. Brown bottles block 98 percent of light while clear bottle block…..well….0 pecent of light.
And believe it or not, some foreign brews are shipped in clear bottles and green bottles, which makes skunking a normal thing for foreign imports.
Local brews are usually canned and don’t change hands as many times. The This decreases the likelihood of it getting exposed to light during the distribution process.
Is that all the problems with foreign beer? NOPE!!
Another issue associated with bringing in beer from far away is a little thing called autolysis. This happens when yeast cells ferment and die. The yeast cells then break down and release an enzyme that tastes like soy sauce, which usually only happens in brews that are carbonated using live yeast.
So next time you plan on buying ale and can’t decide whether to buy local or foreign, just remember everything stated here. According to Beer Menus, “local beer isn’t just a trend. It’s a realization about how good beer can be.”
With all the factors against foreign beer, local beer has a much greater potential to be better.
Sixty-One Local’s Troy Wennet decided to put this to the test with the newly opened Folksbier Brewery in neighboring Carroll Gardens.
“I swapped out the PA beer for the Helles Simple Lager, and we’ve received great, positive response to its deliciousness and surprise that it’s made just down the street. We’re excited for the Helles Simple because it’s giving people who just want an affordable ‘beer’ beer awareness of what’s going on in the NYC beer scene.”
Buying local beer is not only good for taste quality but also a good way to support your local economy and build local pride.