“What the craft brewing industry has done for beer consumption in America goes beyond expanding product differentiation”

What the craft brewing industry has done for beer consumption in America goes beyond expanding product differentiation. It possesses two unique properties to effectively change the culture surrounding beer consumption across the nation. The first change is in the manner in which people consume the product. Macrobrewed American light lagers, as a homogenized product, serve to alienate customers from the source of their creation. In the vein of Marx’s thoughts on industrialized production alienating workers form their fruit of their labor, industrialized consumption separates the buyer from an appreciable connection to their product. Regular consumers of a macro-produced beer rarely understand how such products are made; nor do they know individuals who were involved in the production process. The popularity and market dominance of these beers does not equate to a meaningful personal relationship with the product. On the contrary, craft brewers actively pursue a closer relationship with their customers. This is based on locality, strong brand identity, and a strong personal presence on the part of the producers with their customers. Personal guided tours through craft breweries are common throughout all of California’s large craft brewing facilities, and in many of the smaller ones. In these spaces, production and consumption meet face to face, creating a personal relationship between the brew and imbiber. The brewers themselves are commonly found on site and openly discuss their work with patrons. The spirit of local brewing has returned in America, although their character reflects contemporary values. 19th century German-American bier-gardens, English pubs, and working-class saloons constituted an accepted form of public drinking; but they were bound by values of male dominance and relatively strong ethnic isolation. Modern venues for public drinking, especially of craft beer, are multicultural and readily allow the presence of women. While still perceived as a male dominated industry, craft brewing has seen the rise of women as consumers and brewers. The Lost Coast Brewery of Eureka is among the first in the nation to be wholly owned and managed by two women, Barbara Groom and Wendy Pound. Their brewery is one of the major economic contributors to Humboldt County, providing full-time work for over 150 people in the city. Two of the first breweries to break into the Los Angeles markets were founded by women; Ting Su with the Eagle Rock Brewery, and Cyrena Nouzille of the Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie. Both establishments host women’s beer groups that promote female participation in the brewing community, and are also highly respected establishments in the Los Angeles brewing community. Nouzille, and Su’s co-founder and husband Jeremy Raub are prominent alumni of the Maltose Falcons as well. While the Los Angeles craft beer boom is a relatively late addition, they are proving that this counter-industry can take root in a county that is notoriously inhospitable to smaller businesses. While the craft brewing industry still has progress to make in completely democratizing itself, the efforts of Nouzille and Su, along with prominent female brewers like Devon Randall of Pizza Port and Alexandra Nowell of Three Weavers, show that women can become accepted and respected members of the brewing community.

Eric Ortega, “The Golden State of Brewing; California’s Economic and Cultural Influence in the American Brewing Industry” (Master’s thesis, California State University, Fullerton, 2015), 103-105.