Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Becoming a Beer Ambassador

In Traveling With Beer, I discussed the logistics of traveling with beer and why you would want to bring beer back with you from your travels. Today I'd like to discuss why you should consider taking beer from your area with you on trips that extend beyond your local area.

When you go someplace new, everything is a little different. Sure there are public transportation systems, but they might take a different fare or have nonsensical routes. Things are different without being completely foreign. The same is true with beer. Beer styles can transcend regions, yet ingredient choices and interpretation make each beer unique. Traveling gives you the advantage of trying beer from different areas. Wouldn't it be nice to share a favorite brew from your local area with someone where you are visiting?

Upon visiting a local bottle shop at your destination, you may find many beers that you've never seen before or maybe have only heard about on the internet. You'll also notice that many of your favorite beers are missing since they are not local to the area. Like minded individuals will most likely be thrilled to receive a beer from your area as they normally don't have access to them, so why not make this happen?

Beer that isn't widely distributed is referred to as "never beer" on a podcast that I listen to called Beer School. This term came about because when they mentioned certain beers on their show, many of the listeners could never find them locally. Bringing a "never beer" with you on your adventures is a great ice breaker, and for me this has facilitated interesting conversations with several people that I would have otherwise not spoken to at length.

The beer that you bring with you doesn't have to be expensive, but it shouldn't be readily available in the area to which you are visiting. You can check a given brewery's distribution by visiting their website; if your destination state (or country) isn't listed then you are ready to go.

I'm still learning the ins and outs of beer ambassadorship, but I've found that 22ounce bottles tend to work well and they are reasonably priced for a gift (generally $3-$7), and they pack well. What bottle I bring may depend on availability, but if I'm visiting a brewery or someone that is not a complete stranger I might track down a limited release from my local brewery (Harpoon).

So you have your "never beer" ready, now where do you take it? Breweries and brew pubs are a natural as the gift may very well get you a free pass to talk to the brew master if they are available. Another option would be to find a well respected beer store, this acts as a great ice breaker and can open up a great conversation about local beers. You can find good beer stores by checking the Beer Fly section of Beer Advocate. You'll need a user name and a password, but registering is free.

In theory, you could join a beer forum and ask to see if anyone wants to meet you at a pub to trade local beers, but I haven't tried this.

Remember that when you travel and find things that are interesting, there are those out there that would find your every day encounters just as intriguing. Do them a favor and share what you have ready access to.

One last thought on the topic. Being a beer ambassador should be done freely and without any reward expected other than a good conversation. Keep this in mind and you'll be surprised at how rewarding being a beer ambassador can be.

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