In preparation for my trip around Lake Superior, doing “research” for SUPERIOR PINTS, I recently read BREWING LOCAL: AMERICAN-GROWN BEER, by respected beer writer Stan Hieronymus. He talked about “place-based beers” and discussed how many craft brewers want their beer to reflect the place it was created: the nearby land from where the ingredients come, the often historical buildings where the brewing takes place, and the locals who come to enjoy beer at the brewpub or tap room.

One hundred and fifty years ago, nearly all beer was, of necessity, local. Beer does not travel well and before the development of railroads and refrigeration (and then later extensive highway systems), beer was consumed very close to where it was brewed. But as transportation improved, breweries became more and more regional. And in the last half of the twentieth century, regional breweries struggled to become national. Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, won the competition; the other regionals were relegated to being nostalgia beers, and contract brewed at Miller plants that had spare equipment. Then Anheuser-Bush/Miller/Coors became international. And your Bud, or MGD, or Silver Bullet would same the same wherever in the world you drank it.

But for last three and a half decades local beer has been making a comeback. Each year, more and more towns had brewpubs and taprooms where townspeople could enjoy their favorite beverage just where it was made. Old styles were revived, new interpretations of them were created and, once again, beer had flavor — it wasn’t just pale, bland, and fizzy.

Of course, some of the craft breweries became very big, reaching regional, national and even international distribution. But many of the new ones remained content to remain small, or relatively so, creating beers that grew out of the natural environment around them, and serving them to locals or travelers who wanted to taste local.

These thoughts will guide me as I travel¬†around Lake Superior this summer, starting in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, making my leisurely way along the South Shore to Duluth, Minnesota, and then back along the North Shore to the Canadian Soo. ln my earlier beer travels, I drank the beer in the places I visited, but I didn’t consider how important the places were to the beer drinking experience I had.

This year I will. You could say that I’m making a very loc-ALE circ-ALE tour.

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