Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
This paper is based upon a multi-year ethnography of the craft beer community in the Philadelphia region. Craft brewing, as an economy, grew out of the homebrew movement of the 1980s and 1990s after federal regulations changed around homebrewing and its legality. It also grew out of a general growing craft movement (consumables and other commodities) in the United States, which focused on quality and quality of life over the ideals of the postwar consumer economy, which focused on standardization and production for a mass audience. As such, the craft discourse articulates a higher set of values that are associated with some notion of an absolute good. For the craft beer movement, this has very much focused on the discourse around the care, independence, and quality of the beer product itself. But it has also enjoined a wider set of discourses that include the unique value of the local, the importance of environmental issues, (especially around water quality), and other social entrepreneurial activities such as support public health campaigns. The craft beer community is interesting because it is now a sizable economy, the study of which can contribute to an anthropological theory of value (Graeber 2001). It supports thinking about entrepreneurship and democratic culture in new kinds of ways (Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfus 1997). Finally, there are multiple contradictions within this discourse, most notably gender and race exclusion and alcoholism that undermine the progressive nature of the craft beer discourse that will be explored.