Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

October 27, 2014

Beer Diary:

Baby Boy’s Got His Passport: Lookout Brewers!

Baby Boy has got himself a passport—to good craft beer.
by Baby-Boy Jackson

Baby-Boy Jackson is just here for the beer.
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The Massachusetts Brewers guild has teamed up with U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to promote the state’s craft breweries and encourage the use of local farmers’ produce in making beer. Taking inspiration from the Vermont Beer Trail and Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, they have created the Massachusetts Craft Brewer’s Passport.

The pocket-sized passport contains a map of the state and the names, addresses, and websites of 47 craft breweries. Craft beer lovers can take the passport along when they visit breweries and get a mug stamp for each one they visit. The passport is divided into five regions. If holders drink at all the breweries in a single region, then they get a “Drink Local” t-shirt. Those who visit all the breweries in the passport win a shirt and a commemorative beer glass. (There are also 18 breweries listed with just their websites, though these do not seems to be part of the program.)

Those breweries that use locally grown ingredients in their beer are designated on the passport with a little tractor icon. Promoting the connection between local farmers, brewers, and drinkers is one of the main goals of the program, according to Amy Mahler, assistant press secretary for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

“We want to make sure that people see that when they support craft brewery that they often support local farmers,” Mahler said.

Brewers in Massachusetts use a variety of locally farmed and produced ingredients including apples, honey, maple syrup, and even oysters, according to the Massachusetts Brewers Guild website. Some brewers are also working to develop their own strains of yeast to add a local character to their beer. “Going to a craft brewery is the same as going to a farmer’s market and shaking the hand of the farmer who grew your carrots,” Mahler said.

More than 2,500 breweries are operating in the United States, and many of them have taken an interest in local ingredients as a way to support their local communities and protect the environment, according to a report entitled “From Grain to Glass: Assessing Opportunities for Craft Brewers to Use Locally Grown Agricultural Ingredients.” The report, written by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, describes how the high cost of farmland in Massachusetts requires growers to have a diversified customer base for survival and suggests that brewers can be part of keeping agriculture health in the state. It also notes that the large number of craft brewers in New England could support hops farms.

Mahler said that while most of the hops in the United States are grown in the Pacific Northwest, there is opportunity for hops production in the Northeast.

“Craft beer is part of our food system, and we want to promote that,” Mahler said.

All of these lofty goals, though depend on one thing—craft beer lovers. That is why the USDA, the state government, and the Brewers Guild came together to produce 60,000 print passports for breweries to hand out. Since there is no registration, it is not clear how many people are actually participating, but the staff at a variety of breweries instantly recognize the passports and seem familiar with the program.

Rest assured that Baby Boy is on the case. I will be hitting the road over the next several months with the goal of visiting all the breweries in the passport. Check back for updates from the road and reviews of the beers I find out there.

If you want your own passport, you may be able to find one at a Massachusetts craft brewery. If not, then download one here.