It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted a Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing you would have to pack your bags and travel to Colorado to go get it. Thanks to the rising popularity of craft beer over the last ten years you no longer have to worry about the ability to get your hands on the standard stuff like a six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a good old Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues.
With greater distribution comes a greater amount of choice. This is a great situation for a craft beer lover as we tend to have an adventurous side that requires us to seek out new flavors and styles. With over 2,700 breweries now operating in the United States there is a lot of beer out there but even in the best distribution areas you are only getting a fraction of a percentage of the whole.
The simple fact is most breweries do not have a national distribution network, but rather are small local operations that supply their communities first and foremost. Even the big guys don’t distribute everything they make and small batch runs can still only be tasted at the brewery.
Thus the need for beer travel hasn’t decreased with the expansion of the industry but rather has grown. If you really want to experience the breadth of beer being made in the US you are going to have to go find it.
The good news is that you can find it just about everywhere. As craft beer grows so does the popularity of home brewing. When home brewers get good (and ballsy) they start a brewery and when new breweries open more people try craft beer creating a loop that creates growth all around. This growth has spread into states with previously strict alcohol laws and when the laws start to change for the better there will be those willing to supply the demand.
You can find a least one brewery in every major city with most of them sporting multiple breweries. Why not take advantage of these opportunities during your travels and try some pints of the local brew? When you do venture out you’ll not only discover a new flavor, but also new cultures, new people, and new stories.
Drinking from the source provides the most honest representation of the beer (the one the brewer had intended) but also adds intangibles that can’t be recreated on the draft lines in your local bar. The atmosphere provided by seeing the vessels behind the bar that helped create this beverage or hearing the inspiration behind the beer from the brew master all add to the experience. When you remove the atmosphere and personality you are left simply with a beverage that may or may not have a funny name.
So in a time when choice and variety are at an all time high, try to keep it local while remembering that local can be anywhere you are.