Microbreweries as tools of local identity

  • S. M. Schnell and J. F. Reese (2003). Journal of Cultural Geography, 45-69
  • Abstract: During the 1990s, over 1,500 microbreweries sprouted and flourished across the country. This expansion of microbreweries derives, in part, from the desire of people to break away from the smothering homogeneity of popular, national culture. Such breweries are often proudly and self-consciously local, sporting local historical photos, maps, and other artifacts of a place's personality as part of the decor. Geographer Wes Flack has hypothesized that the growth of such establishments is a prime illustration of a movement termed "neolocalism," in which people are attempting to reconnect with the local, the personal, and the unique. The microbrewery industry has undergone rapid expansion and major upheaval in the decade since Flack first carried out his research. This study examines recent trends in the industry and determines that his original thesis is as valid as it was when he first offered it. The core of this paper is an analysis of how ale names and visual marketing imagery are used by microbreweries to tap into this powerful feeling, and of the ways that these images serve to create local loyalties and identities. We argue that such imagery offers us a valuable window into the process of neolocalism-the active, conscious creation and maintenance of attachment to place.
  • Theme: Perceptions and attitudes
  • Keywords: cultural identity, identity construction, microenterprise, sense of place, small scale industry, North America, United States
  • Reference type: Journal Article
  • Geographic location: United States, North America, Global North
  • Quality:
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