Every year I try to set myself some kind of beer drinking challenge. Last year it was going the full year without having more than one of any beer. This year, it's trying to see just how many counties in Pennsylvania, states in the USA, and countries in the world I can check off by brewery. I'm not drinking beer at every meal and shopping extensively at bottle shops to "count" as many places as possible - just choosing deliberately from tap lists and shelves in the normal course of ordering or buying beer.
We're one quarter in on the year, and it's time for an update!
Pennsylvania Breweries - 9/67, 13.4%
As you might expect, the local counties around Philadelphia fell quickly. Every visit to a local brewpub or tap room (or, if we're being totally honest, my own or others' home breweries) checked off something! The satellite counties in the area near Reading, Allentown, etc. were also relatively easy, as their beer is common in our market.
Going beyond that has been a challenge. Schuylkill County*** was easy enough (thanks, Yuengling) and two Erie-area breweries are common around here despite being on the polar-opposite side of the state, but there's a surprising lack of Pittsburgh beer on tap lists in the area.
A summer trip to the family homestead near Gettysburg should help me knock out some more of these, but in the meantime I'm wondering just how committed local bars are to stocking PA beers rather than just purely "local" beers...
I'm a bit behind pace at just 13.4%, year-to-date, but I also haven't yet determined just how many of these counties don't have a single brewery! That's what summer is for.
American Breweries - 22/50, 44%
This has been easier, especially in such an import-friendly beer market. Again, a particularly "regional" bias exists in what I was able to check off, but in addition to Mid-Atlantic breweries the Midwest has been represented well. The Eastern Seaboard is almost completely checked off, but I'm drawing a consistent blank on South Carolina. Suggestions (of breweries that send beer to PA) are welcome!
I have some low-hanging fruit remaining, too: Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut are easily had but not yet cleared out (how have I not had a Maine Beer Co. or Bissel Bros. or Allagash beer yet this year???). Ditto the Pacific Northwest - nothing from Washington or Oregon. Those will come in time, I'm sure.
I have a sense that the challenge is going to be in those places with burgeoning but not-yet-matured craft beer scenes. Arizona and New Mexico, the Deep South, the Plains States, etc. I'll be keeping my eyes open because I know of some great breweries in many of those states, but they're not super-well-represented on local taps.
MOST overrepresented? Michigan. Good for you, Michiganders! I see your stuff all over the place. Excellent beers they are, too. Let that be a balm on your psyche to help you recover from your March Madness loss to my Villanova Wildcats (GO CATS! \\//).
Global Breweries - 11/195, 6%
I'm actually a little surprised at how small this number is. I think part of the reason is because I've been focusing on the rarer local and national breweries, and visiting more breweries/brewpubs than beer bars, but there's a surprising dearth of international representation in my purchases this year, thus far.
A lot of the usual suspects are gone, of course: Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic. Canada remains a surprising (and large) blank spot on the map, but that's easily rectified the next time I run across a Moosehead or Unibroue.
And, of course, I'm sure there are a few of these countries that don't export a beer. I'll update that this summer as well, so we know what we're looking at.
What I'm really hoping for, though, is a chance to knock out more South American and African breweries. So far, I'm rocking 0% on those. My census of "beer exporting countries" will undoubtedly end up demonstrating that the European bias I've seen so far is largely a function of the marketplace, but all the same I may do some proactive hunting to find beers from out-of-the-way places. Time will tell.
Out of 312 "places" on my list, in the aggregate I'm 13.5% "checked off."
I expect that I'll be able to do much more over the summer, when trips to the beach and some international travel will allow me to get outside of my usual market choices and/or give me a reason to hit the bottle shops, but so far I'm enjoying the challenge and grateful for the reason to break out of any beer-drinking ruts I might have!
If any of you have joined me (or want to), feel free: post your progress below, or in future updates, coming quarterly.
Keep it simple.
Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link! Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).
***An earlier version of this piece wrongly stated that Yuengling is in Snyder County - I can only assume that Autocorrect freaked out upon reading "Schuylkill County."