One morning back in the summer of 2014, I was sitting in a little inn overlooking the medieval city of Salzburg, on the edge of the Austrian Alps. As I sat, eating breakfast while looking about the old rustic building, decorated with ancient farming equipment and Austrian folk art, I heard the sound of a small truck pulling up outside. The door opened and a man greeted the older couple who owned the place and began trundling in cases of bottled beer. I noticed that the name on the crates was Stiegl, a local brewery that has been in operation since 1492 (yes, the year Christopher Columbus set sail). The delivery man once he was finished, then retrieved the crates of emptied bottles which would be returned to the factory, washed, and reused. Stiegl is now one of the largest brewers in Austria and ships worldwide but, it was great to see that even with their success, they have never forgotten that they were and still are, a Salzburg brewery. The product that they make is still of an extremely high quality, is sold at a fair price, and is revered amongst the locals as a landmark of the city’s culture.
At one point, there was a time when all the little towns across America had their own local brewery. Unfortunately, prohibition caused most of them to close down, unable to reorient their business. The macro-brewers that still exist in America such as Anheuser-Busch, survived because they could change their business model until prohibition was lifted. Afterwards most Americans drank beer that was manufactured somewhere else and shipped across the country to them. That was, until the Craft Beer Revolution came along.
Now you can go to any major city in the US, and many smaller ones as well, and find a local brewery turning out quality beers to serve to their own local community. You can go inside, talk to the owner, meet their family, and hear that individual person talk about their own business and their own products. This means that the brewer is directly connected and responsible to the public. They know who he is, why he’s started the business, and what he hopes to accomplish. The Brewer in turn, becomes invested in the community, he wants to see it thrive and succeed because now, he cares about it. The public becomes, not just a customer base, but, a part of his life and work. He gets to know the individual people, what their lives are like, how their kids are doing, and what sorts of beers they enjoy. The community also, comes to care about the brewery and its people as well, not just a place where they want to spend their money. Instead they see it as a communal environment, a place that brings people together over good stories, good jokes, and good beer.
You see, when you spend your money on local businesses you can see where it goes. It goes back into the community and helps to build it up. Money spent on local business pays for a child’s piano lessons, sends a kid to college, helps a family take care of elderly grandparents, and it keeps your favorite communal space (The Crooked Rooster Brewery we hope) open. Rather than going into the collective pockets of a multinational corporation, it helps make a little part of your hometown that much better. And through this process, across the country, people will help strengthen their own little communities.
And a great way to start is by supporting your local brewery, The Crooked Rooster.
John Steinmeyer is a fourth-year student of history and political science at the University of Florida, where his focus is on the study of early American history and the crafting of good policy that will help promote growth, community, and agrarian values. He graduated from Baker County High School in 2013. John gained a love for good beer while studying abroad and interning in Austria and Germany and now writes for the Crooked Rooster’s online blog, The Brewster.