It might seem that only geek/nerd “things” get conventions, right? Comic-con, Dragon-Con, GenCon (for those TSR/Dungeons and Dragons fans), even Blizzard has a con for players of World of Warcraft. Well, that is not the case. Any cultural artifact that, well, can have a culture develop around it will probably have a “con” that like-minded fans can attend. There are conventions for academics, for consumer electronics retailers, even … beer. Yes, there are professional conventions and annual meetings for those who brew professionally, but there are many more fan gathering spaces where those who thoroughly enjoy the “barley pop” will gather, discuss, and imbibe. My first post here in “ProfsDoPop” will examine that relatively recent fan and cultural phenomenon that is craft beer.
On July 23rd, I (with my wife and mutual friends) attended the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Festival in Ypsilanti, MI (sandwiched between Detroit and Ann Arbor). This is the second time I have attended it, and I definitely walked into it with a different set of eyes than two years ago. First, I have been brewing more, meaning I have moved further along the spectrum from consumer to producer (what Jenkins might see as a “prosumer” of beer culture). Second, I also am wrapping up a new edited volume on beer culture with some dear and new friends of mine in the Comm/Cultural Studies/Journalism worlds. Third, I arrived armed with a camera and an academic lens at the ready (pictures coming soon). This is is how I entered the gates.
The first thing I noticed was not even the event, but the culture that was constructed around the event and in “Depot Town,” the part of Ypsi where the festival occurs. By 11 am (gates were at 1), there were street vendors selling water and pretzel necklaces for a dollar per (they came in handy, by the way), the restaurants along the main street (where the line was to form – see pictures) were packed with fans wearing branded t-shirts of their favorite breweries, drinking pints (before the fest, mind you), and regaling anyone in earshot with stories of past fests and survival tips for newbies.
It was at this moment where I started seeing the types of fandom start to play out. I would not really understand the full extent of how these identities were performed until I got through the gates … which took a while. Once the pictures are ready to go, we can dive into that in more detail.