24 Jul The Pub as a Home Space — An Invitation
by Noah Taylor, guest writer for Indiana On Tap
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Indiana On Tap.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to write this piece for a while. As a disclaimer, I’m new to this, writing for the public, craft beer, pretty much all of it. As a 23 year old in the craft beer industry, I’ve done my best to familiarize myself with the nuances of the craft and the culture. I take pride in it, my learned ability to be the 23 year old baby of the brewery who knows what he’s talking about. I’ve taken the time to learn about the brewing process, milling grains, weighing out hops into a careful mis en place, and cleaning kegs…so so many kegs. I’ve taken what I’ve learned, digested it, and applied it to what I can offer as a server in the taproom.
That being said, I recognize in myself the constant inclination I have to prove myself worthy of being in this industry. Which is the reason I felt the need to start this piece by qualifying myself to readers before I went into what I wanted to say. Enough of that. In my two years in the world of craft beer, I’ve noticed an energy more often scaring away outsiders rather than inviting them in. Whether it be the language we have developed around the industry or challenging the palettes of casual Light American Lager drinkers, we have to recognize that this community is not always the most inviting to an outsider looking in. Unfortunately, being sneered at for mispronouncing “Gose,” or encountering an annoyed response for inquiring about domestic styles is a common experience for newcomers to the craft beer scene. The model of the neighborhood, cornerstone pub is a polite one. There is no doubt. But who is allowed in? I find myself wondering that day after day.
If I want the craft beer community to continue to flourish, I have to look to the future. How do I do my part in making craft beer accessible to those who may feel that they don’t have a seat at the bar? I ask myself, “Why do these people feel like they don’t have a place?” I think the answer is often, in a word, pretentiousness. Pretentiousness that has manifested as a snobbish attitude shrouding the industry. In an appreciation for the craft, we have alienated those who “just don’t get it.” There has been an adopted attitude that if an outsider doesn’t immediately take to an aggressively hopped IPA or a jaw clenching sour, then they have no place to enjoy what craft beer has to offer them. Some may think that I am misguided in this assertion, but I hope to form an argument that at least shifts a lens to examining how we can make this industry more inviting to procure growth for workers and beer lovers alike.
At least once each shift, I encounter a newcomer nervously tracing the taplist wondering if there is anything on the menu for them. This is my favorite customer for two reasons. One, whether through the force of a friend or a genuine curiosity to try for themselves, they have made it in the door. Second, I see this as a chance to share an artform that I love, an artform that so many work so hard to keep. They often give me fearful disclaimers like, “I’m not a beer person” or “I’m a Coors Light kind of guy, what’s here for me?” Bingo. This is my signal for action. My mode of action is to immediately do my best to empower, rather than roll a snobbish eye communicating a disgust for their lack of exposure to “real beer.”
We have an opportunity given the knowledge of beer we have gained. I hope this piece can inspire some level of movement to empower outsiders to expand their palettes rather than weaponizing the knowledge we do have. When we weaponize this level of beer nerd knowledge we have acquired through Untappd badges after flights and pints, we fail to recognize groups that have been neglected the privilege to access this world of craft beer.
We have adapted the brewery scene as our home away from home, and I undoubtedly include myself in this group. It is our place to gather and converse and wind down the day, a place to spend time with like-minded individuals. I believe that the future of this industry lies in the ability to look introspectively and consider why groups feel excluded and who these people are. When we recognize this space as being our home, we then gain the ability to invite others in. Include others, empower them to feel an heir of comfort in this formerly intimidating space. It is ours and we determine how others feel when they step in.
Along with pretentiousness, it is important to recognize the privilege we have been afforded in feeling welcome in this space. Most importantly, we must recognize who the groups excluded from the culture are. The answer has become easy to see in my time serving patrons at the pub. Pub regulars are white, affluent, cisgender, and are accompanied by those who look and speak just like them. With that in mind, I think it is important to extend an invitation to those friends of ours who don’t look or live like we do. I’ve overheard some of the most insightful conversations over pints between friends in the pub, but that insight and that community can only do so much when ideas are only being exchanged and validated by people who share the same life experiences as we do. By doing this we use our privilege as a tool to welcome others instead of forming barriers to keep ourselves surrounded by people who share the same privileges.
The pub has become a place where we can seek and give support, we seek and give friendship, and we can engage in vulnerability. It only makes sense that our response is to be protective of it. We should be. My call to action is to realize how supportive this culture has been to us, and how we can extend an invitation to those who need that support. We have access, which means we have a responsibility. With that I ask, that we make a greater effort to recognize when we are being exclusive, recognize that privilege, and replace that notion with one where we invite and empower discovery in others. With new perspectives, we make the craft more inclusive, the conversations more inviting, and the homespace safer. We must make the effort to use our privilege to make others feel safe and make sure their voices are heard in the industry. This is how we grow.