Local Is Good, Right?

When it comes to beer, where do you draw the line?

Austin is currently stiff with people attending South by Southwest. You can hardly move for thousands upon thousands of people watching films, seeing bands, enjoying 80° temperatures in March and generally having a good time. It's a pretty safe bet that a lot of them have made the trip with the intention of drinking some local beer while they're here, and let's face it - we have an embarrassment of riches on that front.

It's pretty neat that a college town in Texas - which also happens to be the state capital - should be home to a small brewery (Live Oak) that makes a hefeweizen considered to be one of the best two or three examples of the style in the world. There's Jester King: only about 18 months old but already being thought of as one of the most innovative breweries in the country. Independence has done some great things with their Brewluminati series of limited run beers. Austin Beerworks and Thirsty Planet have come out of the gate with Sputnik R(ussian) I(mperial) C(offee) O(atmeal) Stout and Double Buckethead Imperial IPA respectively. Plenty of Austin beer drinkers are eagerly awaiting the first rumours that bottles of (512)'s once-yearly release of Whiskey Barrel Double Pecan Porter have hit the stores (gotta be pretty soon I reckon). And that's without even mentioning the handful of new Austin breweries that have sprung up in the last twelve months, plus the brewpubs. Not bad.

Going a little further afield (Blanco - a mere 40-minute drive away from Austin), we've got Real Ale and their Mysterium Verum barrel-aged beers, not to mention a fine range of seasonal beers. And what about San Antonio's Ranger Creek with their superb OPA, Mesquite Porter and Bestia Aimable? The Saint Arnold Divine Reserve beers? Southern Star?

There's so much good beer around these parts that it's difficult to be accused of homerism when buying an Austin-brewed brew - buying it purely because it's local whether it's good or not. Buying local is all well and good as long as you keep a sense of perspective. Applying the principle blindly and without discernment doesn't necessarily do much to help things along. Sure, you're keeping money in the local economy, helping local businesses and jobs (perhaps even your own), but you might also be enabling poor quality. It can be a tough call sometimes, especially with something like beer which is a matter of personal taste. One man's meat, and all that.

By all means get out there and enjoy the local products, but don't settle for less than the best.