BeerDorks.com: Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

 
June 11, 2012

Beer Diary:

The Power Of Beer

When beer becomes more than heavily marketed fizz water, it can be a revitalizing tonic for an entire community.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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Apparently, another summer is upon us. Let’s look at the facts:

  1. It’s June.
  2. It’s 90 degrees.
  3. I got sunburned.

Although that third one has happened during every season of the year, the evidence is overwhelmingly indicative that this is indeed summer. And summer means one (of many) things: beer fests.

To be honest, though, I’ve kind of lost my enthusiasm for beer fests. It’s not the crowds, the people who won’t get the fuck out of the way, the increasing difficulty in getting tickets, or the ever-rising price of those tickets. Those things I could live with if it meant a chance at sampling some great beer. It’s the fact that at most beer fests, you can get the exact same great beer at a local bar, the local beer shop, or even a mainstream grocery store. It’s that simple fact that makes the lines and the assholes unpalatable enough for me to avoid beer fests.

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I haven’t sworn off brew fests altogether, although, it’s been awhile since I went to one. It was late last summer, in a tiny town in southwest Wisconsin called Potosi. A few of you (of our very few readers) might have heard of it. It was once home—and namesake—to a regional brewery that closed up shop in 1972. Occupying that space now is the National Brewery Museum, a massive and fantastic collection of American beer memorabilia and kitsch.

It was not the first time I’d been to Potosi. That was a long time ago, probably in the mid-’80s, after the brewery had been closed for a decade or so. The place was a shit hole, a typical dying small town, where the instant people turned 18 they got the Hell out of there like their life depended on it. It looked like it was getting ready to blow away with the next stiff wind.

But that’s changed. Drastically. The transformation began in 1997, when Potosi native Gary David bought the old brewery and surrounding buildings from the county and set about restoring it. Eventually the entire community joined in the reclamation project, forming the Potosi Brewery Foundation in 2000. In 2004, the American Breweriana Association selected the Potosi Brewery for the site of its new museum. Thanks to the community spirit and tourist draw created by the museum, there are new shops and restaurants, and an intangible feeling of vitality about the place.

They’re also brewing beer there again. Although beers distributed under the Potosi label are contract brewed offsite, small batches of kegged beer are brewed and served in the brew pub and restaurant (whose gorgeous, massive polished wood bar was carved by Gary David, the guy who got the whole thing rolling) attached to the museum.

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And the brew fest was like an exclamation point to the reemergence of both the town and the brewery. Thousands of people swarmed the brewery grounds, sampling Potosi brews along with beers from southern Wisconsin, northwest Illinois, and northeast Iowa breweries and home brew clubs. The local firemen were selling burgers and brats, and the high school had a rubber ducky race fundraiser in the creek that runs alongside the brewery. (I didn’t win a damn thing—it was rigged, if you ask me.) I ran into people from virtually every spectrum of the beer world, from locals enjoying the festivities to a couple who was trying to get their own brewery restoration project off the ground in another small Midwest town.

The whole thing was a pretty goddamned awe-inspiring testament to the power of locally brewed beer. This is one of the reasons why beer shouldn’t—can’t—be bastardized and commoditized. When you do that, you suck thousands of years of culture out of a drink that the human race literally nourished itself on. Also, the result of that commoditization is abominations like Bud Light fucking Lime.