Beer's Terroir & Breweries Who Take It Seriously

Beer brewers take a lesson from wine and coffee

The word terroir–characteristics that the soil and climate of a specific place lend to the ingredients grown there–is usually applied to coffee, tea or, most commonly, wine. But another beverage has adopted the buzzword: beer.

Some breweries are now planting their own barley, inoculating their beers with native yeasts and using local hops grown specifically for–or by–the brewery.

The resulting bottles are as expressive of their native soil as a great grand cru Burgundy:

Lakefront The Milwaukee brewery makes Local Acre (pictured), a lager with six-grain barley and hops grown within a 100-mile radius. The pale and cloudy beer has a doughy, slightly peppery nose and subtle flavors of citrus and corn.

Rogue This Oregon fixture grows its own hops and barley for the Chatoe Rogue series. The line changes seasonally, but look for the surprisingly light Dirtoir black lager and the Oregasmic Ale–made with 100 percent Oregon ingredients.

Sierra Nevada The first brewery to create an entirely estate-made beer, Sierra Nevada uses hops and barley from its Chico, California, homestead to create the Estate Brewers Harvest Ale. Biscuity and superfloral, the Harvest Ale is smooth and balanced.

Weyerbacher Harvest Ale, a bright, citrusy seasonal brew, is made with Cascade hops culled from brewery president Dan Weirback's Pennsylvania farm.