“…change that craft beer has created for the American beer drinker is the revitalization of public and communal drinking”

The second change that craft beer has created for the American beer drinker is the revitalization of public and communal drinking. While not completely reversing the Post-Prohibition trend of sending drinking from the saloon to the home, gains have been made in restoring dignity to public drinking establishment; and creating new opportunities to enjoy beer in public. The proliferation of specialty beer bars, and craft beer tap handles at other drinking establishments indicates the discernable success of alternatives to the standard American Light Lagers. There is a closeness to an artisanal produced beer that can be achieved, where those who drink it claim to truly appreciate the flavor impact of the malt, hops, and yeast. The combinations of these ingredients create categories that drinkers self-ascribe to; a ‘Hop-Head’ is a consumer who prefers highly bitter and resinous India Pale Ales, whereas others prefer Belgian styled beers. Still more may prefer darker stouts and porters, or a more recent trend to barrel aged and sour beers. The sublevels of self-identification run deeply into the drinker’s sense of self. In an article on craft-consumption, sociologist Colin Campbell describes the desire to affiliate with a given product thusly, “That is to say, they might come to desire some small corner of their everyday existence to be a place where objects and activities possess significance because they are regarded as unique, singular or even sacred.” Campbell spoke not of beer in his research, but his insight on discerning consumption patterns can easily be applied to the modern beer drinker. In a community where beer is both consumed and produced, where drinkers are involved in the design and creation of a product, where production comes from and is connected to the homebrewing community, the term ‘craft’ is surely appropriate. The craft ‘producer’ designs and creates a product, not separating the two. The craft ‘consumer’ takes these products and transforms them into humanized objects, part of their self-identity. Homebrewers have the strongest case for association with the industry, as they too are informed of, and participate in the production process. Those who do not homebrew are still involved in ‘craft’ consumption when they visit the sites of production, take in interest in the creative process, and forge their own connection with the craft brewing industry. Beer festivals are a recent manifestation of the connection between production and consumption. Channeling the communal drinking of centuries ago, beer fests put visitors in common grounds to taste and discuss the topic at hand. Those who visit are of all stations of society, young and old, ethnically diverse, and a balance of male and female participants.

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), 105-107.