Since the 1600s, Philadelphia has been a haven for beer drinkers, brewers and connoisseurs. What’s that oft-misquoted phrase from Mr. B. Franklin? “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”? Well, it turns out he was really talking about wine but Philly has embraced the spirit nonetheless, topping the lists of “Best Beer Cities” and starting a nationwide trend with its annual Beer Week—a 10-day celebration of local hop history, pub culture and craft brewers.
Wesley Shumar, PhD, anthropologist and head of the Department of Culture and Communication, is tapping into this craft beer movement and exploring what it might signal about the evolving palate of the marketplace. He and doctoral candidates Nora Madison and Tyson Mitman have noticed that while other businesses struggle to keep up, microbrewers are reveling in the two-way conversations made possible by new media, using it not just to advertise, but also to build a community of like-minded individuals. This focus on personal connection, says Shumar, underlies the larger craft movement, including craft food trucks— fleets of local delectables-on-wheels so popular there are over 100 apps to help you track them down.
Is the rise of craft a countermovement to the box-store meccas of consumerism, Shumar wonders? Are both the producer and the consumer now, after living so long apart, finally searching for a higher-value experience—one where their worlds actually collide? Though the verdict isn’t yet in, the possibilities are already making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.