Craft Brewery Culture: A Metaphor for Political Disaffection?

A recent study published by JAMA Psychiatry found general alcohol consumption in the United States over the last decade to be up by 11 percent, with “high-risk alcohol consumption” having increased by closer to 30 percent. There are plenty of speculations as to the exact causes; some possible factors include income inequality, economic depression, and clinical depression as well.

Either way, it seems clear that Americans drink a lot. It’s tempting to link some of our collective political disaffection to this behavior, as well. After all, the U.S. was recently downgraded to a “flawed democracy” by The Economist, according to its yearly Democracy Index, due to worsening income inequality, legislative deadlock, the financial crisis, and repeated government shutdowns at the federal level.

All this bad political news would make anyone need a beer — and pronto! But especially now, considering the current administration and the state of non-staffing in Washington D.C., progressives have a lot to feel discouraged about. Could this explain liberal voters’ obsession with craft beer?

I’m not positive, but I do know one thing: I’ve been seeing a lot of kids and babies at craft breweries, lately. And I don’t mean once. I mean every single time I go to a local establishment that brews its own craft beer, I spy a little human — either running around or being breastfed. I mean, it’s good that mother was breastfeeding, albeit behind a screen to be discreet — since breastfeeding is highly beneficial for both mothers and infants — but I digress.

Maybe I’m being insensitive to the psychological needs of new parents, but I happen to think this is odd — perhaps even a bit tacky. Is it necessary to bring your children to a brewery with you while you imbibe?

Maybe it’s a status symbol. Perhaps it’s the result of the butterfly effect. One writer even opined that the craft brew scene is “helping isolated new mothers.” Either way, this new kid presence in breweries is not without its controversy.

But say you’re a disaffected political parent who still wants to drink beer with your kids, but you want to do so in the comfort of your own home. You could always brew your own. You might even go so far as to make your own labels to impress your friends. You and your friends could drink beer in your backyard with your kids close by, so as to prevent injuries or kidnapping at the hands of strangers or, goddess forbid, liability for broken glasses. The freedom from legal liability or safety concerns allows homebrewers the ability to breathe easy when minors are added to the mix.

And how will you properly store all that extra beer that you make, in the event of the apocalypse? (Because, when we consider the state of our current political situation, the apocalypse clearly is on its way.) Be sure to store the bottles upright, in a cool place like a basement or cellar, and don’t bother aging it because — unlike wine — there really isn’t any difference with most beers between aged ales and fresh brews.

Perhaps you can put all that political angst to good use by discussing some of the issues that are most concerning for you and your friends and organize political actions that could change local (and eventually state and regional) policies. And remember to use your mutual commiseration craft beer for something that benefits everyone involved — including the kids.

Because we can’t lead the next generation by taking them to our local brewery yard — albeit grassy and filled with trees — and proceeding to ignore them while they dangle upside down from trees trying to catch our attention. Those little boys and girls may grow up to believe themselves unworthy of attention and time investment. If they’re playing in the safety of their own home or yard, they’ll be better off.

Lastly, remember not to lose hope. In the words of Rebecca Solnit,

The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.

There are many moments that present openings — for example, a moment in the middle of summer when a boy asks his father a question while hanging from a tree. That moment could be one of opportunity or one that passes us by. We can choose from several possibilities — so long as we don’t ignore the next generation. They remember more than we realize.

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Image source: Pixabay

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