Beer and identity: an informal study

As a student whose field of study in no way involves such things as “statistics” or “quantitative research” or “the real world”, I’ve sometimes found myself resorting to alternative takes on the scientific process in order to answer the more practical questions in life. By this, of course, I mean silently judging those I encounter with the cold, cynical eyes of unverifiable criticism at all times.

Today, I’ll be sharing the findings of one of such studies: a study of beer and identity, that is. First, some background information:

For the past three years or so, I’ve worked as a server in a local music venue. Over that period, I’ve seen everything from metal to jazz, indie-(insert other genre here) to country, folk to hip-hop and all that’s in between— along with each scene’s unique demographic of attendees.

Over the course of my many shifts, I’ve developed what I think to be— and what experience affirms to be— the precise ability to guess almost exactly which beer brands will dominate sales on a given night based on the type of music being featured.

Unless it’s to be believed that certain archetypes of customers all possess, innately, extremely similar palate-preferences when it comes to the sweet, sweet nectar of so many grains, I’d say that there are some other, powerful social forces at play here. Beer-pressure, perhaps?

I’m so sorry. I… I apologize.

Without further ado (and puns), here are some of my observations regarding beer and identity, broken down into their natural groupings.

Kokanee, Lab Lite, MGD, Budweiser

The usual suspects:
Metal-heads; rock and country fans; rap and hip-hop fans

Amongst these demographics, the most important beer-choice-influencing commonality, I think, is the desire to be identified as something along the lines of “blue collar”. These folks want to be associated with cheap, no-frills brands. “No bull-shit,” this customer seems to say. “Just give me a goddam beer so I can go throw my neck out, already!” It doesn’t have to be interesting— it just has to be beer. Further consideration might put the subject at risk for being thought of as inauthentic, in some way.

Standard Lager

The usual suspects:
Folk and indie-anything fans

I’ll say it: Standard Lager is the PBR of Manitoba; the hipster-fuel of Winnipeg. Not all Standard drinkers are hipsters, by any means, but all hipsters are Standard drinkers. I have nothing against the types of music that attract buyers of Standard, by the way— or for that matter the Standard drinkers themselves— but this category is easily the most predictable of them all. My own theory is that Standard Lager is so extra-cheap, unassuming and mundane that this crowd is ironically attracted to it. Its status as one of the lowliest-of-low brews available in terms of price and flavour profile makes it perfectly suited for association with an “I’m over it” identity. I’m not going to try and untangle the mess of layer upon layer of mirrored irony within current hipster discourse. My brain, your brain and the universe would explode. You get the picture, anyway.

Imports (Stella, Heineken) and local brews (Half-Pint’s, Fort Gary)

The usual suspects:
Jazz; anything high-brow/arty

There’s definitely some cross-over between this category and the last. While local brews do indeed leak into the hipster demographic, though, they sell like absolute hot-cakes with this group. In the land of the so-called “high-brow”, beers associated with the “blue collar” identity are nowhere to be seen. Here, it’s all about letting your peers know that you have a highly-cultivated taste— that you’re an individual of “culture”. Local micro-brews and imported suds become associated with connoisseur-ism and worldliness, in this group. Bingo.


The usual suspects:
Your Dad.

Go ask your dad.

What do you think? Are you an offended hipster or ascot-wearing avant-garde lover with a bone to pick? Have I cast a certain beer or music-type into the wrong category? Sound off in the comments and let me know!