Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why 'Upstate'?

It occurred to me the other day that this blog is only a small part of a broader turn I've made in the past year or so towards supporting the local and organic food movement.  And yet I've only hinted at this in my posts; I've never fully explored or explained this aspect of Upstate Brews.  Well, today I'd like to briefly go into some of the reasons why I support this movement, why it's relevant to this blog, and why it's important to support our local, independent breweries here in Upstate.

Organic food has become a huge deal in recent years, with millions of consumers turning away from conventionally grown ingredients (which are farmed with the assistance of chemical treatments, pesticides and - increasingly - genetically-modified organisms) and instead purchasing food which has been farmed using traditional methods which, proponents argue, produce better, healthier, more nutritious ingredients, and are also better for the environment.

One side-effect of the new interest in organic food is the commercial organic industry, which is very well-intentioned but has also resulted in some oddly ironic actions - for instance, the demand for grass-fed, organic beef has contributed to deforestation in South America as farmers try to create more pasture for their cattle. 

Hence the local food movement - a way to move towards a sustainable, organic model of food production which benefits the local economy as well as lowering our carbon footprint and delivering nutritious food at a reasonable price.  In Upstate NY, we're faced with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to locally-grown food - so it makes sense that farmers should be able to sell their goods directly to consumers, cutting out the middle man and maximising their profits, knowing that they are also giving excellent-quality food to people who might not have the means to pay for grocery-store organic food all the time.

In Rochester alone, we have summer farmers' markets in the South Wedge, Brighton, Monroe Village, Fairport, Pittsford and Irondequoit - all offering locally-grown produce, most of it organic.  And let's not forget the downtown Public Market which sells a huge range of produce, most of it conventional but there are some organic suppliers too.

In the winter, the Highland Park market offers an incredible range of fresh and frozen produce and baked goods.  It's a beautiful thing, and I have to say that with prices comparable to or lower than Wegmans, everything I've bought from the farmers' markets has been of exceptional quality.

Which brings me to my next point: Upstate Brews exists to explore the locally-produced beers available to us here in Upstate NY, which are usually of far superior quality to beers produced on a massive scale by 'macrobreweries'.  They're not always brewed using local, organic ingredients - although that's something I'd really like to see more of.  These local, independent breweries do, however, have a commitment to producing excellent beers and ales, contributing to the local economy (so that, for instance, Rohrbachs and Custom Brewcrafters have become the offsite brewpub for many Rochester-area institutions), and generally being awesome.  In an area that's lost a lot of its major powerhouses and industries, the burgeoning craft beer business is a great boon to Upstate.

Homebrewing is also growing in popularity, as people realise it's a lot more economical to produce beer at home than to buy it in stores.  If you get really good at it, you might even be able to make the transition from homebrewer to professional brewer - which is how a lot of the Upstate microbreweries started.

So, buying local beer is important because it supports small-scale brewers of hand-crafted drinks, and in this area, supporting local businesses is vitally important.

We're spoiled in Rochester because we even have a macrobrewery in the city - North American Breweries, producers of Genny brand beers, as well as the Dundee craft label.  So we have no excuse to buy from the Big Three (Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors) - almost every style of beer is produced by one of the local breweries!

Well, if you've read this far, congratulations and thanks for letting me ramble on a bit about one of my passions.  Hope it gives you some food for thought!

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree more! Keep the great posts coming and we're hoping to get you something to review very soon ;)