Globally, Drink Locally
survey of local watering holes reveals an abundance of locally
It seems that our cult ural vocabulary hasn’t yet coined a
term for the practice, but as a growing swath of the populace
gets hip to the idea of eating “locally,” a parallel trend
is emerging in the realm of beverage. For the “locavore,”
eating food that is produced within a relatively small radius—100
miles is the somewhat arbitrary standard—is an effort to access
higher quality healthy produce, meat, grains and dairy, which
cuts out the fossil fuel expenditure involved in shipping
these foods great distances, and simultaneously stimulates
local economy through the support of small farms, community
gardens and farmers markets. For the, um, “locoholic” (locoozer?
locuzzler?), drinking locally crafted beer, wine and liquor
is an extension of these principles, not to mention a great
way to taste the region’s unique flavor.
Most drinkers wouldn’t place the Capital Region in the company
of iconic beverage producers like Milwaukee, the Napa Valley,
or Bourbon County, Ky., but a quick survey of a few local
bars reveals a surprising number of local options for the
Microbrewed beer is not a new concept, and as beer tends to
be the most populist of alcoholic offerings, it also provides
the most local options. In this area, two brews reign supreme.
Albany’s C.H. Evans Brewing Company, housed in the Albany
Pump Station, touts a varied line, foremost among them the
award-winning Kick-Ass Brown and Munich-style dark lager.
On the other side of the river, it’s Brown’s Brewing Company,
with their flagship pale ale, oatmeal stout, and a rotating
lineup of fruit-enhanced ales. On the wine side of things,
the Saratoga Winery and the Brookview Station Winery (at Goold
Orchards) offer a wide variety of reds, whites, and apple-,
pear-, and strawberry-based wines.
But you don’t have to go to a brewery or tasting room to drink
locally. Adam Baker, manager and head bartender at Justin’s,
says that customers ask him for local suggestions four or
five times a week. The bar stocks four Belgian-style ales
from the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, as well as Red Hook
(from Red Hook), Saranac (from Utica), and most recently Ubu
(from the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery). As for wine, it’s
Lamoreaux Landing from the Finger Lakes.
Kevin Blodgett, a bartender at Café Madison, agrees that the
idea of drinking locally is becoming a greater concern among
the restaurant’s patrons. “People are asking for [local brews],”
he says, “and everyone working is really into it as well.”
For a place like Café Madison, acquiring local beverages is
the next step in a policy that already has the head chef shopping
at farmers markets for local produce and the Honest Weight
Food Co-op for their wide selection of local cheese.
For the New World Bistro Bar, building a locally sourced menu
means finding the proper local wine pairings. Currently, the
restaurant has eight New York wines on its list, and bar manager
Kevin Tighe says they feature one red and one white every
week. Their approach is to feature different regions different
weeks, moving between the Hudson Valley, the Finger Lakes,
Long Island and Niagara (at the looser end of “local”). Fox
Run, Millbrook, Dr. Frank, Duck Walk, and Pindar have all
been featured. “These wines are competing against the Napa
Valley product,” Tighe says, “so we try to find reasonably
priced wines, between $6 and $8 a glass, for people to try
out. More often than not they’re really pleased.” The restaurant
also uses theme-based meals to help customers explore their
local wines. Last week, for example, they featured the Game
Bird line of Heron Hill wines in conjunction with special
game-bird menu items.
Everyone seems to agree that the new frontier in local drinking
is liquor. In this area, one name rises to the top of the
list: Harvest Spirits in Valatie. Their flagship offering
is Core Vodka, a vodka made from local apples, but they also
produce an applejack, pear and apple brandy, and are experimenting
with grappa (an Italian grape spirit) and himbeer geist (a
German raspberry spirit). Baker describes the vodka as “really
good, light, with a hint of apple flavor at the end,” but
he admits that Justin’s doesn’t yet stock Core due to how
small the market is and how much vodka is dominated by big
brand names. Blodgett, too, admits that Café Madison doesn’t
yet stock Core due to minimal demand, but he says that “for
the price and quality, it definitely holds up to the brand
To spark interest, Tighe says, New World has offered a few
drink specials using Core in an appletini, caramel apple,
and pomegranate appletini. He’s also toyed with a boutique
rye whiskey called Tuthilltown from Gardiner, but confesses
that rye is not an especially big seller.
As a whole, the three seem convinced that local drinking is
catching on and are enthusiastic for where the trend may lead.
In the end, more options lead to better drinking, and this
is something bartenders, local brewers, and thirsty locavores
can all get behind.
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