Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Place-Making through Beer-Drinking: A Case Studies of Montana's Craft Breweries

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Place-Making through Beer-Drinking: A Case Studies of Montana's Craft Breweries

Article excerpt

In his travelogue, Travels with Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck writes, "I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it's difficult to analyze love when you're in it" (1962, 158). This is one way to express the aim of this paper. When I moved to Montana a few years ago, I was a novice beer drinker. Regardless of that fact, I was drawn to craft breweries as a way to get to know my new state. This research is driven by the question of why visiting breweries has formed the basis of my connection to Montana, and so, the aim of this research is to demonstrate the role that craft breweries play in place-making.


Place comes into existence when meaningful experience is attached to a particular location. As Yi-Fu Tuan explains, "What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value" (1977, 6). Edward Relph defines places as "profound centers of human existence," which involve a "concentration of our intentions, our attitudes, purposes, and experience" (1976, 43). Similarly, Arturo Escobar suggests that "places gather things, thoughts, and memories in particular configurations" (2001, 143). For Tim Cresswell, "Place is how we make the world meaningful and the way we experience the world" (2004, 12). As such, in a world that consists increasingly of images, place is not entirely material. It is also of the mind, a product of various images and associations, memories and emotions (Aitken and Zonn 1994; Hanna 1996).

At the same time, place isn't a static entity, but instead is a dynamic process that "can never be completed" (Thrift 1999, 317) and is "constantly becoming" (Pred 1984, 280). New associations, representations, and interactions continuously reshape it. According to Doreen Massey, place is "a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus ... It is, indeed, a meeting place" (emphasis in original) (1994, 154).

From such an understanding of dynamic, meaningful, experiential place, this research argues that drinking a beer at a craft brewery is a very effective form of place-making. This argument will be addressed from two complementary angles: that this activity provides visitors with a memorable connection to the brewery's location, and that this connection is reinforced and may, in fact, be "pre-loaded" by brewery imagery and naming trends. After providing some introductory information about the growth of the craft brewing industry, an analysis of imagery utilized by Montana's craft breweries will be undertaken to reveal several common themes. Then, results of surveys taken by visitors to Montana breweries will be used to explore the ways in which place-making occurs through such outings.


In 2014, Montana ranked fourth in the nation in breweries per capita, behind Vermont, Oregon, and Colorado, respectively (Brewers Association 2015a). Montana was home to only one craft brewery in 1990 (McLaughlin and others 2014), while today it has sixty-three. Montana's recent embrace of craft brewing can be explained by two main factors. First, a 1999 state law allowed small breweries to operate tap rooms without purchasing an elusive quota-based liquor license, Montana being the last state in the United States to allow breweries to sell beer for consumption on premises (Newhouse 2013). Although this "sample room exception" restricts consumption to three pints per person and tap rooms must close at 8:00 p.m., this legislation encouraged many new craft brewers to open their doors (Newhouse 2013). Second, a couple of Montana's main agricultural products, barley and wheat (not to mention hops from nearby Washington and Oregon), create a natural symbiosis between the product and the origin of its ingredients. High-quality water is also said to have played a role in location decisions made by several brewers (Newhouse 2013). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.