Drink a Microbrew, Save the Planet, Taste the Culture

Travel Blog  •  Joanna Kakissis  •  05.19.09 | 1:29 PM ET

Photo by prince roy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’ve said before that travelers who want to walk the talk of environmentally responsible living must also seek out sustainable food (i.e. no Chilean sea bass!) when on the road. I’m adding locally brewed beer to my list.

Making and transporting beer doesn’t produce nearly as many carbon emissions as boutique wines, which are often flown by overnight air, says Pablo Paster in his column for Treehugger. Still, Paster advises eco-imbibers to drink a local brew over that beloved German beer.

Doing so means you cut carbon emissions, support the local economy and encourage nascent renewable energy efforts among microbreweries; Paster points to both the solar-powered Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California, and the wind-powered New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado as proof. New Belgium even notes on its website that imbibers can “model joyful environmentalism” through “the camaraderie and cheer of beer.”

Though I’m not a copious drinker of beer, I do love a good microbrew. Boulder, Colorado, where I’ve been living this year, has my all-time favorite—the thick, creamy Isadore Java Porter at the fabulous Mountain Sun Brewery. I’ll likely forever associate its taste with the city.

And that’s really what it comes down to when we choose, say, a local craft beer in Japan over an imported Heineken. The distinctive flavors of the places we travel imbue our experiences. Though globalization has brought McDonald’s and Starbucks to nearly every corner of the earth, it hasn’t ruined the culture of local food/wine/spirits. Boulder-brewed Bhakti Chai and that Mountain Sun porter will flavor my experience here as much as wild sage tea and home-distilled tsikoudia did in Pikris, Crete, my mother’s home village.

Yes, local, sustainable food and beverages are eco-friendly. Yes, they help the local economy and promote the preservation of traditional food cultures. But they are also the very taste of the place you’re visiting.

That alone is a reason to indulge.

Joanna Kakissis's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, among other publications. A contributor to the World Hum blog, she's currently a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

8 Comments for Drink a Microbrew, Save the Planet, Taste the Culture

nate 05.19.09 | 4:51 PM ET

I think you nailed it.  Beer is all about experience, and if a microbrewer can create such a distinctive flavor that it triggers a distinct memory, whether it be a friend, event, or location, they have succeeded where all the conglomerate breweries fail.  Lots of money and a global product comes at the sacrifice of authentic experience.  Great article!

Eva Holland 05.19.09 | 5:20 PM ET

Great post. I always seek out local beer but I’d never thought about the environmental implications… Now (not that I needed one) I guess I have a good excuse!

Lindsay 05.20.09 | 10:05 AM ET

It also helps that in some countries beer is cheaper than water! : )

Big Sur Real Estate 05.20.09 | 7:54 PM ET

While traveling around the world it can be daunting to try and seek out sustainable food.  My mindset is usually to close my eyes and pretend it is organic and fair trade. 
Also a beer sounds great right about now.

KIDNONNA 05.21.09 | 5:12 PM ET

I will always remember the first time I had Harp and Number 9…...they were both holidays and both good memories. It made me really appreciate that “not all beer tastes the same” and it can give you those good memories.

camping equipment 05.28.09 | 7:59 AM ET

I love microbrews, we have some great places here in Charleston, SC with wonderful local brews, i love doing tasting here during the summer.

Lindsay 05.28.09 | 9:27 AM ET

Hey Camping-I am visiting Charelston in October-would you mind letting me know a few places to try some local brews? Thanks! you can email me directly if youd like .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

GreatGAbeer 06.22.09 | 5:03 PM ET

Georgia’s got some great brews, too!  Check out Sweetwater, Atlanta Brewing Co. and Terrapin’s Rye.  Super tasty brews and great tours for passers through.  Also, if you find yourself in Georgia, the below is a good site to keep in mind when traveling: 


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