Service helps capture a taste of regional specialties

For the most part, we grow up accustomed to the products that are closest to us — to the point that we often forget that food and beverage is a sort of regional dialect, each consumable existing around the area from which it is created. Only the largest companies are able to blanket the entire United States with their products, or fill every airport with one of its franchise locations.

Yet, the most beloved consumables come from those regional specialties. Millions drink Starbucks because there are millions of people close to a Starbucks, but fans of more regional coffee shops like Caribou or Dunn Bros. tend to rally around their choice at a rate that exceeds Starbucks’ ubiquitousness. For every McDonald’s there’s a more regional choice like Five Guys. And for every Five Guys there’s even smaller chains like JL Beers, or local shops like the soon to be opened Taphouse 41.

We love to talk about that one time we got to go to a Popeye’s, or when we spent the weekend drinking Tully’s or eating Dunkin’ Donuts - all regional franchises unavailable here in Sioux Falls - but with these regional options comes an unexpected side effect: we don’t just enjoy the regional options, but we miss them once we’ve moved on. We are a much more mobile country than we were when large franchises began taking over the landscape. We encounter more regional and local things. We fall in love with the differences. And we really miss them once we return home.

For me, this is especially the case with beer. A trip to Minnesota - just under an hour away! - brings me in contact with dozens of beers I can’t get in Sioux Falls. Beers that may be no better than the ones I can get here in Sioux Falls, but that experience a boost of recognition for being “unavailable.” Just this past spring we visited and tasted from a dozen different breweries in San Diego. I fell in love with several of them. I wanted to buy it all and keep it all.

But it’s one thing to drive beer back from Minnesota. You can’t bring beer in with your carry on, and you sure don’t want to trust it to the luggage handlers down below. The only way San Diego beer can make it back to Sioux Falls is via the road or via the postal service.

So we ordered some beer and had it shipped to us. We cheated beer’s regional dialect and stashed away some beer thanks to LetsPour.com.

LetsPour.com - and several other “mail-order” beer companies - distribute beer, wine, soda and other drinks out of several distribution centers. It’s a concept that’s legal in most states - Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska are all good - but frowned upon in others. Sorry, Minnesota. You’ve got enough good beer. You don’t need to have anything shipped.

There’s one drawback to ordering beer online - it’s expensive to ship. It’s heavy. It’s breakable. It’s not something the post office will take lightly, so naturally your shipping costs are going to reflect that.

LetsPour.com’s model is to provide free shipping if you order six bottles from the same distribution location. Our order included several beers from various San Diego breweries - some Stone that I haven’t seen in Minnesota, some AleSmith, a bottle of Ballast Point and few from Lost Abbey. The total bill hit $80, but given that each large bottle might cost $15 each here in Sioux Falls, we weren’t out too much for six bottles of cellar-able beer.

What it did for us was allow us a little taste of San Diego on our anniversary last week, a callback to our early second honeymoon and a delicious celebration of the west coast’s greatest little beer town. It cost a bit more, but, then again, it would have cost a lot more if we’d have shipped it ourselves - without any of the guarantees that LetsPour offers.

It’s not something I’d suggest for everyday beer. But for recapturing a taste of that regional dialect? It’s totally worth it.