Academic journal article Material Culture

The Geography of Beer: Regions, Environment, and Societies

Academic journal article Material Culture

The Geography of Beer: Regions, Environment, and Societies

Article excerpt

The Geography of Beer: Regions, Environment, and Societies Edited by Mark Patterson and Nancy Hoalst-Pullen New York, NY: Springer, 2014. 212pp. 64 Illustrations, 61 illustrations in color. $129 (Hardcover), ISBN 978-94-007-7786-6, $99 (e-book), ISBN 978-94-007-7787-3.

This edited book is a fascinating collection of contributed chapters that examine the historic, physical, economic, and political impacts of beer. The topics of each chapter are unique yet often overlap, and all stress the importance of geography and how the third most widely consumed beverage in the world is distinctly spatial. From the earliest civilizations engaging in agriculture to the recent growth in craft breweries, beer and their brewers have left a distinct mark on consumption culture and the material landscape.

The book is divided into three sections: Part I Regions, Part II Environment, and Part III Societies. In all three parts, geography dictates the sourcing of ingredients, reflects the traditions of its peoples, and dictates the production and distribution methods of beer. Many of the chapters utilize The American Breweriana Association's data base, which lists every brewery to have ever existed in the United States. As a means of interpreting the current growth of craft breweries, many chapters are rooted in sound geographic theories, such as Weber's Theory of Industrial Location (i.e., optimizing production by minimizing transportation costs) and Yi-Fu Tuan's neolocalism ideas.

Several chapters focus on the historic patterns of beer. Mapping breweries over time shows strong correlations with historic events. Nelson's chapter, "The Geography of Beer in Europe from 1000 BC to AD 1000," highlights the changes from a female-based, domestic, cottage industry to a male-dominated professional guild, often located along rivers, in monasteries, and/or in urban environments. Sewell's chapter, "The spatial diffusion of beer from its Sumerian origins to today," highlights global patterns of types of beer. In the chapter entitled "Mapping United States Breweries 1612 to 2011," Batzli displays the influences of British, Dutch, Irish, and German settlers on North America and visually connects westward expansion, transportation, and the mining industry with maps of breweries.

Historically, local breweries took advantage of spatial opportunities and economies of scale due to the nature of storage and distribution technology of the times. Shears' chapter, "Local to national and back again: Beer, Wisconsin & scale," describes how beer has always been important to Wisconsin settlement. The German immigrants brought a brewing culture, and by the mid-1880s the state had over 300 breweries. Chicago's devastating 1881 fires destroyed most of the city, including their breweries. Neighboring Milwaukee jumped on this opportunistic market and began the early stages of mass production. By the end of the nineteenth century, several breweries expanded and smaller ones went out of business. The temperance movement and the passing of Prohibition in 1917 saw the end of most local breweries. By 1975, the top five brewing companies held 75 percent of the market.

Haugland's chapter, "The Origins and Diaspora of the Indian Pale Ale," describes a classic example of how settlement, immigration, and physical geography had a direct effect on consumer culture. India pale ale (IPA) is an original English beer style that began for a specific reason, diffused through transportation routes, and is now widely found in many craft breweries. Established in the 1600s, the East India Company had a monopoly between India and Britain and transported goods through varying climates, starting in the cold waters of England, crossing the equator, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, and coming back to warm Indian waters. Given these changes in temperature, exploding casks and spoilage was not uncommon. Because of their preservative effect, the number of hops was increased in the beer, improving shelf life. …

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