Drink Local, Especially When on the Road

Good beer is local beer, and local beer is fresh! The jingle is true for eggs AND beer. The thing is, drinking local applies when shopping or drinking at your favorite local store/bar/restaurant AND when traveling.

About to visit Allgash

The last GBH column discussed beer trading and how each region, or even each city, has its own “only available locally” brews. Sure, you can always find a trading partner to send you rare local specialties, but just as effective a method is to seek out all the local brews when on vacation or traveling for work.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to make my way around the country a bit for work or vacations, and I’ve found some amazing local brews that we simply cannot get here.

In April, I drove my family down to Kitty Hawk, NC, on the outer banks. The vacation was lovely, but one of the best things we discovered there was the Outer Banks Brewing Station. It was a stunning brewpub with really great food, but the beer is what stood out. I love brewpubs, but often their beer isn’t particularly inventive. This was NOT the case at OBX Brewing Station, who had just won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest.

Their beers were all top-notch, but three brews really stood out – a lemongrass wheat, a winter wassail, and a truly stunning oyster porter. Yep, that’s right, a porter with local oysters, which blew me away. It didn’t taste like oysters … it was a nifty porter with a great slightly-salty, slightly-ocean flavor that was a winner. And it’s one of those beers that you can’t get anywhere except on the Outer Banks.

Semi-locally, a great weekend vacation beer trip is to Portland, ME. With a booming beer scene, spectacular restaurants, and a funky-but-not-pretentious vibe, Portland is a really fun place to spend some time and it’s only 165 miles (less than 3 hours) away.

Recently, I took my wife to Portland for her birthday and we toured FIVE breweries in one day, going from the outer reaches of Maine Beer (in Freeport), to Allagash (not downtown), to relatively-downtown breweries Rising TideBunker Brewing, and finally Sebago Brewpub.

I love Maine Beer and Allagash, and had tried Rising Tide and Sebago, but Bunker was only discovered on an internet search. Shipyard is also downtown, but we had toured that before and didn’t get there this time. The brews were all great, and we enjoyed spending the day experiencing different atmospheres and different beers. Brewery crowds are friendly and fun, so we met lots of enthusiasts along the way and had a blast.

Heck, Portland is so beer-focused that there are several companies running beer tours, where they pack everyone into a bus and bring them around to different breweries.

You can even check out fairly local breweries around Massachusetts when working. Just this weekend I was working just a bit west of Boston and after work was able to stop by Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham. Their tap room had a bunch of “brewery-only” offerings including the stunning “Chupacabrau”, which had tequila, lemongrass, chilies, oak, and agave. It was amazing, and can only be bought at the brewery.

One doesn’t even need to travel to try brewery-only tastes. It’s sold out now, but Buzzards Bay was recently offering a one-of-a-kind brew called “Dr. Fowler’s Funk”, which was a slightly-sour, grape barrel-aged brew that had been in the barrel for SEVEN YEARS. It was really quite good, and could only be had on-tap and to take home in growlers. Similarly, their top-notch Westporter sold out in stores and on-tap almost instantly, but was available at the brewery for a while after disappearing from retail outlets.

So when traveling, Google Maps is your best friend. Search for breweries in the area you’ll be visiting and you never know, you might find some special one-of-a-kind brewers or brews, or even a new favorite beer!

Originally published May 27, 2014