What does the brewing culture mean to you?
In my Ethnography class in Summer of 2019, I was the team lead for a project about the brewing culture for breweries. In my role as team lead, I came up with location that would be the base for our observations and interviews. I also conducted the interviews and also created the final report.
Wendy Adams (Team Lead)
Ethnography research is a method used by professionals and academics alike to determine how people interact with each other in a specified environment. Different from simple observational research, ethnography requires that a researcher integrate him/herself into the environment, typically playing a role of someone in that environment. Ethnographic research can be done in any environment where people live, work, or otherwise interact.
Research Question and Location
For the research question that we wanted to find out more information about, we decided to research about breweries and why they have become so popular with the general public. I noticed that the number of different breweries that have opened in the past 2 years have increased. We also wanted to know why owners and employees have fallen in love with this industry and what exactly does the brewing culture means to them.
Since we only had such a limited amount of time, we decided to do our research on just one brewery. We decided to go with Schoolhouse Brewing, since it was close to our school campus.
Since the brewery, at the time of this report, is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, we choose to do our observations and interviews on different Thursdays. We did our first observations on Thursday June 27, 2019 We also decided to do an observation on July 4th, so we could observe more people during a different environment.
The first day of observations, we both recorded our jottings down everything from the people and the interior decorations to the part of town it was in, and what type of mood most of the people were in. The second day of observations on July 4th, we paid more attention to the people and the mood they were in, the brewery had decided they were going to offer BBQ and some sides free of charge to anyone that day.
The environment for both days that we did our observations were very different. The first day we did observations for the Schoolhouse Brewing, noticed that it was very mellow and not hectic. Noticed that it was mostly people dressed in business attire, that maybe they had gotten off from work for the day and went with co-workers or friends to socialize. The observations we did on July 4th, which is a national holiday, noticed the environment was much livelier, and people were dressed much more casually.
We decided to ask two employees of Schoolhouse Brewing if they would like to participate in our interviews. We decided on employees instead of customers, since they have been around the brewing culture, and they see it almost daily and can give us insights about the community.
The first person we spoke with was Justin and he is one of the co-owners. He is in his late 30s and is married. He became involved with brewing with his co-owner as a hobby while they were both middle school science teachers. He left teaching to become more involved with Schoolhouse Brewing once the laws changed concerning the sales of beer that is brewed on-site.
The interview with Justin took place on July 4, 2019, and we spoke with him for about 45 minutes. He is very passionate about the career path that he has chosen, and you could tell that he is happy explaining anything about beer and the culture surrounding it. He explained that he got into homebrewing when he had some friends that started homebrewing in dorm rooms in college and became fascinated and started collecting cans and loved the different taste that he experienced. Justin has been going to breweries for about twenty years.
One thing that Schoolhouse Brewing prides itself on, they are happy to share their recipes and explain how you can brew your own beer in your own home. They also sale equipment and the ingredients that can be used for some Do-It-Yourself home-brewing. One of the reasons that brewing appeals to Justin is the sense of pride he feels when people are enjoying a beer that he and Thomas (the other co-owner) has worked on, describes feeling “bonded” with what they have made.
The availability of ingredients, some which are seasonally, is what determines what type of beers are made and put on tap. Justin also explains that the reason so many breweries are opening and more people than ever before are flocking to breweries is because the “millennial” know what they want and what they like, and if they can not find it, then they will create their own and they do not settle.
The second employee we talked to was Christiane who is the taproom manager. Like the co-owners, Christiane left the corporate world and found a new career path with breweries. She got her master’s in public relations. She is in her late 20’s and describes herself as a workaholic.
“We don’t follow trends, we set trends.”
The interview with Christiane took place on Thursday July 11, 2019 and could tell that she was unsure what type of questions she was going to be asked in the interview process. We spoke with her for about 45 minutes. When we started asking questions, she started to relax and her passion for the brewing culture started to shine through. She was hired in March of 2019 during the construction phase before Schoolhouse Brewing opened in May. She fell in love with the atmosphere and culture while visiting a brewery in Chicago. She left her PR job when she realized there is a career in the brewery industry and been working in breweries for three years before coming to Schoolhouse Brewing.
She takes care of the needs of the taproom, training the staff, order any supplies they will need, coordinate and set up events such as food trucks, karaoke, and bingo. She also enjoys that customers do not “take themselves to seriously” and are there to enjoy a beer and hang out with friends. Her beer of choice varies on several factors such as time of year, or simply the mood she is in. She enjoys the traditional style of beers the most overall. When asked if social trends affect which beer that might determine what beer is chosen next to brew, she said, “We don’t follow the trends, we set the trends.” She explains that they try to stay ahead of the curve.
Christiane explains that the brewing culture means to her is really a sense of community. Breweries support one another and help each other when they can. She gives an example of if brewery’s washer has stopped working, they know that they can ask another brewery if they can use theirs and they say yes. She goes on to say that it’s not like the corporate world, that other businesses will not offer to help you because that would affect their bottom line to help the competition. She credits the explosions of new breweries to society accepting it as the new normal.
Breweries are also catering to their main demographic by making them more kid and pet friendly. It would be very unusual if there were not any kids or pets allowed into a brewery and that brewery will probably fail.
After we had conducted our observations and interviews, the next step is to break down our notes and jottings to determine the answer to our research question: What is the brewing culture and what does it mean to you? We found that within the culture of brewing at is a big sense of community and different aspects of it.
Schoolhouse Brewing prides itself in being an “open source” business. They will help you in any aspects of home-brew from teaching home-brew class, to selling the different ingredients for the different styles of beer. If you go on the website for them, they have listed the recipe so you can make what they have on tap in your own home.
Schoolhouse Brewing has different events that are held on different nights of the week so that people will have a place to come that would want to sing karaoke or play bingo. People will make plans so they will come with friends to spend some time with people face to face instead of on their phones.
Schoolhouse Brewing also has a sense of community with other businesses in the brewing industry. They know that if they need anything from a washer or a barrel, other breweries will be happy to lend a hand, and vice versa. During the observations, employees from other breweries were there and looks like they were having a general meeting so to keep that business relationship in good standing.