Craft Beer Community: Real or Illusory?

Martyn Cornell and Boak and Bailey have had a go at this question.

In my view, there is a community of the beer palate, understanding and caring about it in-depth. To use an unfashionable term, it’s a gastronomic interest, that much but not more.

Lots of people like beer but have nowhere near this degree of interest and commitment. I like coffee but the borders of the interest are close to the cup. I can see how some people want to investigate it much further, but I am not one.

I do have the beer bug though and share it with many others. It’s a sub-culture. I’ve participated in it for 40 years and I know it’s real.

We don’t have to like the same kinds of beer, we don’t have to like each other (always), but the community is no less real for that.

This unites me to a broad range of people, from CAMRA volunteers to bar owners, bloggers/writers, brewers, many brewery owners. The instant rapport when we meet or chat cannot be explained otherwise.

Not everyone in commercial brewing cares about beer in this way. For some, it’s more an avocation, or perhaps something temporary, or a good business opportunity. Even in small-scale brewing you find that but it’s the exception, not the rule in my experience.

It follows that nothing is owed by craft brewers in the sense of solidarity beyond the circle as I’ve defined it, say, with those who oppose takeovers/investments in small brewers by international groups or venture capital. At best that’s in the penumbra of the true beer community.*

But the beer community is not illusory for the ground it validly covers.


*H.L.A. Hart’s thinking in legal jurisprudence helps clarify the issue for me, perhaps for others. See this summary by John Gardner in 1988, from the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.