Fluid Communities: Examining the Cultural-Economic Processes Behind Craft Beer

University essay from Lunds universitet/Avdelningen för etnologi

Abstract: The drastic increase of craft breweries globally in recent decades has given birth to a community of beer drinkers who bring with them new values, rituals, and practices. This thesis will explore the development of craft beer communities based on primary research from fieldwork undertaken in 2016 with two case study breweries, Saint Arnold in Houston, Texas and Mikkeller in Copenhagen, Denmark. Using qualitative methods like interviews, observations, and netnography, my aim was to examine the cultural and economic processes involved in creating craft beer communities. The theoretical framework for analysis is two-fold, employing both social and cultural economic theories. Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory on cultural capital and Goffman’s social theory on dramaturgy, craft beer communities’ socio-cultural practices are unpacked, such as the places and spaces community members inhabit, and how they present themselves through personal aesthetics. Community boundary maintenance is also addressed through the lens of gender and knowledge attainment. Meanwhile, cultural economic theory is employed to answer more practical questions like why has craft beer become popular now? Positioning craft beer as a cultural-economic phenomenon also provides a bridge between how craft beer communities exchange cultural capital for economic capital and vice versa, suggesting that a clear distinction between the two has become blurred in contemporary food consumption practices. Differences between manifestations and uses of cultural economic processes between the two cities, ultimately, point to glocalization’s influence in shaping craft beer communities.

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