Craft breweries are Becoming a Critical Part of the Community

“Do you want to grab a drink?”

When’s the last time you heard that? I bet you’ve already heard it (or something very similar) today, or at the very least in the past few days. Americans, like a lot of notable countries, are great at grabbing a drink. It’s woven into our societal fabric. It’s…important. We do it a lot and we don’t make any excuses. Nor, as I will demonstrate, should we have to.

As we stated, Americans love grabbing a drink. Specifically…we love beer. We love it more than all other forms of alcohol combined. And I love America for loving craft beer. Craft beer makes us a better people, and not just for its intoxicatingly delicious flavor and staggering variety, although they certainly contribute to my adoration of this industry and its products. What I’m talking about is a holistic view of why craft beer is good for the mind, body, and soul of a community. It creates conversation, inspires innovation and improvement, and has had a statistically large, and beneficial, impact on local economies all over the country. Heck, our country was planned out over pints of beer.

Let’s frame this up. You’re living in AnywhereVille, USA. You might live downtown, or out in the burbs, or a 30 min drive away on a larger plot of land with a few dogs and some sheep, if you’re into that sort of thing. Your town has a few grocery stores, a bunch of fast food joints, some great local restaurants, a music venue, a local coffee shop, a lot of not-local coffee shops, and probably a mall buried somewhere in the middle of all that. You might work closer to downtown. You might hit the gym on your way home. You might not.

I’ve been to AnywhereVille, and I like your town. It’s a nice place.

Now think about AnywhereVille strictly in terms of its people. Take away the businesses and buildings, and just describe it in terms of the folks who call it home. It’s a more difficult exercise than you first imagine. There are a lot of good people in your town. They do stuff like you do. They love their local (and not local) coffee shops. They love hitting the gym, and going out to eat, and some of them probably like going to the mall (gasp). If you’re new to the town, or if you’ve lived there for 25 years, I reckon you’d probably love to meet a few of these people, and hear their story, and complain about the traffic, the weather, and the local sports team (I’m a Red Sox fan, so you understand why I get to say that this year). I’d certainly like to chat with them.

Now think about what makes you happy. 95% of the reasons why you’re happy probably come from the people you know and love. The people in your life are really, really important. Your town is full of people who derive most of their happiness from their interactions with other people. You’re all after the same thing.

Enter the craft brewery. These homegrown businesses are the perfect medium through which we can filter through the faff and solve the world’s problems over a couple pints. The person that made that pint is a local as well. They live in your town with you. They run a small business next to the coffee shop you stop into every morning. But they also do something more than that. They create a wonderful opportunity for happiness.

They are actually creating positive conversations. Unless you’ve gone into the coffee shop with someone you know, you don’t usually strike up too many conversations in coffee shops. This could be wrong, but either way, the social setting under which you’re most likely to get to know your community is probably over a beer. In the age of heads-down, pocket-sized media consumption with a cynical, myopic focus on what’s wrong with the world, it’s a lovely vacation to literally unplug, drink a beer, support a local business, and build a few bridges between neighbors. This community interaction is vital, and as I said before, it’s what makes it worth living where you live.

A counterargument will say that this is a vague, obvious point, and one can do this with any social setting, and with whatever beverage strikes your fancy. You could do this, and there are a plenty of wonderful alternatives. But I would ask you to try my craft beer formula first and see if it doesn’t work out better. The craft brewing “revolution”, as some like to call it, is creating a tangible community identity and a cornerstone of communication and engagement in the vacuum created by an increasingly polarized world. It’s getting hard to talk to people. The digital age is, in large part, a wonderful thing, and it’s making communication easier than ever. But as we move forward, I also feel like we’re listening less than ever. We’re not proactively cultivating a local identity as productively as we used to. This identity isn’t seen to be as important as it once was. Craft brewing is helping us continue to pioneer, evolve, and build this identity in a healthy and delicious way.

Renegade Brewing Company, based in Denver, is the perfect brewery to pick on here. They’re on a mission to become a civic institution in Denver. They literally built they’re taprooms to be a place for communities to meet and drink a beer. Cynics and pendants will say that they’re still out to make a buck, but that’s exactly what we’re all doing at the end of the day. Most craft breweries are making a product and building a brand around community engagement and local consumption. The business model is, by it’s very nature, part of the local conversation and mission-focused. Most of them care deeply about the ways they’re positively impacting their local area, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a craft brewery that doesn’t.

And back in Anywhereville, USA, the community is doing better for it. They’re supporting local business, building neighborly bridges, drinking extremely tasty beer, and creating an open, amicable dialogue where there wasn’t one. It’s a positive and substantive step in the right direction. This phenomenon isn’t special to the craft brewing industry, but it’s the lifeblood of their success. Let’s continue to support them, and I know they’ll continue to support us.

- Chris