I’ve been an absent from the Air Force lately due to both some personal time consuming activities that do not involve beer (boo!) and a bustling work schedule, but I’m still sampling on a regular basis … just trying to find the time to commit all these tasty treats to formal reviews.

In the meantime, I spent a portion of last week visiting one of our great American cities as I found myself in Boston. It’s a beautiful city, to be sure, and the locals are largely friendly—so long as one does not represent themselves to be a Yankees fan. It has many historical sites, focused primarily on the Revolutionary period, along with modern “tourist destinations” such as the Cheers bar, made famous by the ’80s television show, and the legendary Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

As I happened to have die Königin in tow, we spent a bit of social time and enjoyed some of the local hospitality by visiting a watering hole or three dozen. We had a nice time to be sure, but it struck me a bit, as we ended one of our evenings out, how friggin’ lame the beer selection is in the vast majority of locations we entered. I’ve noticed the same thing in traveling to other large cities. Too often, we walk into a bar or pub and we’re greeted by the same worn out handles: Butt, Butt Light, Stella, Sam, Guinness … and maybe a Harpoon IPA (which, to be fair, is local … but is as close to an “IPA” as Miller Lite is to a “true pilsner”). There were a few places with a local handle, usually Cisco (from Nantucket), but not many, aside from the local brewpub chain called Boston Beer Works.

It’s somewhat depressing that we are nearing the end of 2011, with the “micro brew boom” nearing its third decade and so many purveyors in major markets still dedicate their draft real estate to macro-brewed crap.

This is, unfortunately, nothing unusual. I realize that the bulk of the problem often lies with distribution access to small breweries and craft products and many large cities are totally corrupt—Chicago being the prime example—in terms of “pay to play” for handles in many of the most popular watering holes. I am also more than a bit spoiled in calling the Great Lakes State my home, as Michigan plays host to 95 breweries at last count and craft beer is found nearly everywhere. Regardless, I found it somewhat depressing that we are nearing the end of 2011, with the “micro brew boom” nearing its third decade and so many purveyors in major markets have invested in 8, 10, 16, 20 draft lines … yet still dedicate the vast majority (if not all) of their draft real estate to macro-brewed crap.

There is really only one way for the consumer—that’s you—to continue to wage war on this practice … and make no mistake: it is a war against lazy ownership/management, against distributor bottlenecks, and against big brewer dollars. The consumer must continue to ask for and buy local and quality craft beer and refuse to settle for “whatever they have.”

I’m certainly not against walking out of places that don’t serve any good beer. In fact, it’s happened often enough that the Königen no longer sputters about it. And I’m not suggesting that you can’t enjoy a place that doesn’t have “everything,” but there really is only one language that’s readily understood by the decision-makers who put slop on tap: money. Vote with your wallet and vote often. Support your local stores who carry craft beer and handle it well—keeping it out of direct light and regularly rotating stock. Support your bars and restaurants that put local and quality on tap—and do so when you’re at home and when you’re traveling.

We continue to make progress and the tide is turning, but this past week was another reminder of how far we still have to go.