Updated: Oct 29, 2019
Craft breweries do one thing very well - pump out barrel after barrel of awesome and always imaginative beer. But I argue they do one thing better. Breweries have developed (or perhaps maintained) a selfless awareness of the communities around them. And in doing so, they have helped fuel an energetic culture of generosity and progression through avenues such as collaboration, philanthropy, and the arts.
Here are 9 ways craft breweries are building stronger communities:
The "Taproom" brewery concept creates neighborhood social hubs
Providing a venue for music and the arts
Hosting culturally diverse events
Creating dog and family friendly environments
Collaborations with other local businesses
Sponsoring larger events
Sharing ideas and spreading knowledge of brewing with competitors and patrons
Encouraging alternate forms of transportation
The Taproom Concept
Very simply put, there are two types of breweries - Distribution and Taproom. A brewery can of course have some combination of both elements, but larger breweries tend to focus on packaging and distributing their products to expand their markets, whereas smaller breweries tend to put more effort into their on-site taproom. But again, many breweries multi-task, and most do it well.
These "taproom" concept breweries typically reside in low-key neighborhoods, tucked away from the hustle-and-bustle of downtowns, freeways, and tourist heavy avenues. Naturally, they embrace the local culture of the neighborhood and develop close relationships with the people that live there. New Orleans sports many of these neighborhood breweries, all fantastic in their own way. But perhaps the one that celebrates it's humble origins the most is Courtyard Brewery.
If you have never been there, you may not find it unless you are with someone who has. Nestled on a side street in the Lower Garden District, Courtyard Brewery is truly a neighborhood hangout. They have creating a wonderfully simplistic social hub locals return to week after week.
Providing a Venue for Music and The Arts
As an artist or musician, unless you are a big name act or have some connections it may be hard to find a venue where you can share your talents with the community. Restaurants stick to their own busy agendas, bars are sometimes rowdy and may only be suitable for certain genres or age groups. Breweries embrace music and arts with open arms, recognizing the culture that makes our communities so unique and giving these artists the opportunity to share their gifts. Breweries are blank slates for any kind of music or art display. The clientele ranges any generation, children are often welcome, and those that frequent breweries tend to be more culturally in-tune. One week a brewery may have live music from a local folk singer, the next they may be hosting an improv show (check out Two Friends Improv Theater at Parleax Beer Lab if you're around New Orleans). It's unlikely you'll find this diverse of a line-up at a bar or restaurant.
Hosting Culturally Diverse Events
It's fun to learn about other cultures...it's even more fun to be immersed into the culture! Breweries around the country are frequent hosts to a long line-up of culturally diverse events aimed at celebrating our different heritages. Breweries are known through their communities as being a safe place to enjoy yourself, and hosting a diverse event at a brewery may encourage those unsure about such a venture to attend. Several years ago, Second Line Brewing hosted "Brazilian Fest" - a street festival dedicated to all things Brazil. The food, outfits, and music were unlike anything i'd ever seen. And the crowd of hundreds agreed. Music, arts, food, and so many other aspects of culture are represented at these brewery events, and everyone goes home with a greater knowledge and appreciation for the world around them. If you like Salsa or Afro-Cuban music (or even if you don't), go check out LPT at NOLA Brewing on September 24th.
Creating Dog and Family Friendly Environments
This one is a given...any business (especially one that serves alcohol) that can pull off being fun, relaxing, AND dog and family friendly, is OK in my book. Perhaps no other such place does this balancing act better than Second Line Brewing. Second Line has gone out of it's way to make anyone feel welcome, going as far as putting out dog bowls, rocking family-friendly music, and even providing a shelf full of toys for kids to play with in the spacious outdoor beer garden. Consideration like this distinguish bars from breweries. You will almost never see a mom, dad, three toddlers, AND the family dog laughing, playing and enjoying themselves at a bar or restaurant...this is a common site at breweries like Second Line.
Collaborations With Other Local Businesses
Teamwork is inherently awesome, and breweries make it a habit of seeking out interesting opportunities to work with other local businesses. Maybe this is most evident with the mutually beneficial relationships breweries have with food trucks. It's perfect. Many smaller breweries do not have in-house kitchens, and food trucks need a spot to camp out where people are hanging out. The trucks love having a chill crowd to cater to and the breweries know that people won't sit and chill for very long if they get the munchies and there's no munchies to be had.
But not all collaborations revolve around food and drink pairings. Take Urban South Brewery and Dirty Coast for example; two of the most bad-ass businesses in town, who make two completely different products, found common ground on a touchy subject around here and said "let's team up and brew a beer!" The brewers whipped up a brewski while Dirty Coast added their well known flare and witty sarcasm to the theme of the new beer. It's inspiring for everybody in town when businesses come together and work on something together. We can do more together than we can alone.
Sponsoring Larger Events
Across the country and around the world, weather it's the muggy heat of South Louisiana or the snow capped peaks of Colorado, festivals bring in hordes of enthusiastic patrons looking to have a good time while supporting a good cause. The amount of logistical effort that goes into organizing a festival must be staggering, and most are fueled by financial and physical aid on part of volunteers and sponsorships. Take NOLA on Tap for example. It's Louisiana's largest beer festival, bringing in tens of thousands of people to drink beer, socialize, and support the Louisiana SPCA. One of our newest local breweries Port Orleans took it upon themselves to sponsor this wonderful event. Festivals and events such as NOLA on Tap bring out the best of the community. Thousands come together around great beer and a great cause.
Sharing Ideas and Spreading Knowledge of Brewing with Competitors and Patrons
I have worked in many restaurants. There's something inherently cut-throat about them. The culture within the restaurant tends to be rather spartan, with a clear, often over-dramatized hierarchy overseen by cocky chefs. I hated it. And I also hated the passive aggressive relationships chefs and restaurants maintained with others in the industry.
There's something different about beer, brewers, and breweries. It's this culture of creativity complemented by genuine regard for the success and happiness of your competitors. I worked briefly at a local brewery as a taproom manager. I spent hours talking, chatting, and educating our cheery patrons about beer. But what I really loved was when a fellow brewer from another brewery would sit themselves down at the bar and chat with our brewers. No trade secrets were given out during these exchanges. Rather, they were intellectual and friendly discussions, with each brewer bouncing ideas and solutions back and forth. At the end, everybody parted ways with a greater knowledge of brewing, friendships were made, and mutual respect was earned.
Encouraging Alternate Forms of Transportation
The modern city is a sprawling metropolis surrounded by an endless labyrinth of suburbia. Parking, especially in the older central parts of town tends to be problematic. Space often doesn't exist, or worse, something old and beautiful gets bulldozed to make way for a multi-story parking monstrosity. The rise of the neighborhood brewery ushered in a new push for alternate forms of transportation. With these smaller breweries tucking themselves into the fabric of the community (rather than a shopping center), it affords patrons the opportunity to leave the keys at home and walk, bike, skateboard, or whatever. Not only does this cut down on the need for new parking amenities, but it mitigates drunk driving, cuts gas consumption, and encourages healthier alternatives to driving. I have yet to see an urban brewery that does not have a bike rack out front, and that's awesome.
Breweries celebrate selfless generosity and awareness of things that are bigger than themselves. It's not uncommon for breweries to donate money and time for a cause. In 2016, breweries donated over 70 million dollars to charitable causes. Tactics usually involve celebrating or addressing something that has local impact. Weather it's brewing a new beer, hosting a charitable event, or just providing a safe and social environment for others to do philanthropic work, breweries are movers-and-shakers in the world of generosity. Here's a few of my favorite philanthropic brewery projects from the greatest city in the world:
Go out and support your local brewery so they can keep making your neighborhood or town an even better place to live. Check back to see more posts on how breweries and brewers are building stronger communities, and please share any stories you have about your local brewery or home-brewing!