Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hipsters and Craft Beer

A friend sent along this article about America's Best Cities for Hipsters. From its own introduction, one of the strongest factors was the presence of craft beer in the city: "To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals."

You can go read the article to find out the best cities for Hipsters. Madison, somewhat surprisingly, didn't make the list, but quasi-Madison locales like Denver (though the real hipsters are in Boulder), Austin, and Portland, not surprisingly, are on the list.

I'm more fascinated by this implicit connection between hipsters and craft beer. The so-called "Hipster" is a fascinating sub-genre in contemporary American culture. The Hipster Handbook describes a "Hipster" thusly:
"[Y]oung people with mop-top haircuts, swinging retro pocketbooks, talking on cell phones, smoking European cigarettes... strutting in platform shoes with a biography of Che Guevara sticking out of their bags. ... You graduated from a liberal arts school whose football team hasn't won a game since the Reagan administration ... you have one Republican friend who you always describe as being your 'one Republican friend.' ... A Hipster ideally possesses no more than 2% body fat.
But the "hipster" tag is a strange one. Unlike similar sub-groups, such as "punks", "preps" or "goths", nobody seems to "self-identify" as a "hipster". In other words, the only people that are hipsters are those that somebody else calls a hipster. Indeed n+1 noted this in their symposium called "What was the Hipster":
"I went to n+1’s “What Was the Hipster?” panel discussion at the New School on Saturday but went away a bit unfulfilled. We all had a stake in defining “hipster” as “not me.” ... Like “douchebag,” “hipster” was a name that no one could apply to oneself. But the opportunity to call someone else a “douchebag”: that offered the would-be hipster a means of self-identification by a name one could say, looking outward. In the douchebag, the hipster had found its Other."
The Urban Dictionary says this about Hipsters: "Although hipsters are technically conformists within their own subculture, in comparison to the much larger mainstream mass, they are pioneers and leaders of the latest cultural trends and ideals." This seems to take a much less maligned view of the hipster; they are not cultural wanks and ironic copycats, but rather seek out new and interesting cultural artifacts. Hipsterism often results in anachronistic remixes of culture, to wit: Pabst Blue Ribbon, a quintessential working-man beer, in trendy night clubs. Is this a crass usurpation of goodwill or an intriguing statement on the acceptance of the bourgeois by the effite?

PopMatters' Editor Rob Horning looked to explore this identification of hipsters as modern aesthetes: "[I]s the hipster a kind of permanent cultural middleman in hypermediated late capitalism, selling out alternative sources of social power developed by outsider groups .... Hipsters are the infiltrators who spoil the resistance—the coolhunting collaborators and spies." So, here you have this identification of hipsters as a modality for bringing social power developed by outsider groups to the mainstream. In other words, the whole purpose of hipsters is to assimilate the resistance.

It seems to me, then, that hipsters are necessary for the continued growth of craft beer. What began as a resistance movement, and make no mistake, craft beer began as a resistance movement, is being assimilated by the mainstream. Thus, you have not only an outsider group and cultural identity ripe for appropriation, but it fits squarely into the artistic milieu of hipsters alongside graffiti art, Wilco, and the Underground Food Collective.


  1. Epic.

    The growth of the Hipster Market in craft beer is inevitable as once a few basic terms and style guidelines are learned someone can use drinking beer as a chance to let you know how much more smart and in with the scene they are than you. That and saying “I liked it better before they sold out” can totally be applied as breweries increase their production.

    Interesting timing on this post. As Sixpoint, the ironically Wisconsin beer, just hit the market. I’m so glad I don’t own a tv and get all my news from NPR so I don’t have to deal with all this corporate media telling me what to do.

  2. ...Except for the fact that hipsters only drink PBR. Craft beer is propelled forward by people searching for authentic experiences in food and life. Hipsters are just looking for the 'cool-before-its-cool' ironic statement. Unfortunately for hipsters, craft beer is really fucking cool and its popularity is growing at a rate that make it no-man's-land for Hipsterdom.

  3. Greg,
    Everyone I know that could be described as a "hipster" drinks craft beer almost exclusively, with occasional PBR's and Grain Belt's thrown in. It is definitely essential for a hipster friendly city.
    I disagree about the point that hipsters are the only cultural sub-genre that don't "self-identify." It has been my experience that no one likes to self-identify, period. I've never heard anyone describe themselves as "preppy" or "punk" even if everyone else would describe them that way. I knew a girl in high school who wore only black clothes, a long black trench coat, had jet black hair, wore dark black eye shadow and lip stick, yet insisted she "wasn't really goth."
    I also think that the word hipster really has no meaning anymore, if it ever did. A business man who had thick rimmed glasses and wears raw denim jeans with a plaid shirt on casual friday could easily be called a hipster, as could a kid who buys all his clothes at a thrift store and rides a fixed gear bike to his job at the co-op. Those two people have nothing to do with each other culturally.
    This is how I define hipster: a word used by lazy journalists to define any group of people who make them feel uncomfortable and un-cool.

  4. when I was in college in the early 90's..we had a name for people who now called "hipsters"....strivers. Always striving to be "cool". Usually failing.
    ANyway...I drank craft beer and had a beard before it was I'm definitely a hipster now.

  5. Hipsters are Metamodern:

    In 2010, the cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker introduced the term metamodernism as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate. In their article 'Notes on metamodernism' they assert that the 2000s are characterized by the emergence of a sensibility that oscillates between, and must be situated beyond, modern positions and postmodern strategies. As examples of the metamodern sensibility Vermeulen and van den Akker cite the 'informed naivety', 'pragmatic idealism' and 'moderate fanaticism' of the various cultural responses to, among others, climate change, the financial crisis, and (geo)political instability. Van den Akker and Vermeulen define metamodernism as a continuous oscillation, a constant repositioning between positions and mindsets that are evocative of the modern and of the postmodern but are ultimately suggestive of another sensibility that is neither of them: one that negotiates between a yearning for universal truths on the one hand and an (a)political relativism on the other, between hope and doubt, sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety, construction and deconstruction. They suggest that the metamodern attitude longs for another future, another metanarrative, whilst acknowledging that future or narrative might not exist, or materialize, or, if it does materialize, is inherently problematic.

    The answers to the postmodern paradox are what us "Hipsters" are "performing." Those who criticize are simply clinging to now outdated modernist concepts of absolute truth agendas. The irony is that we're taking all of the fashion, music, art, literature, etc. from past generations and molding our own individual styles out of them to prove this point. That there are no longer any boundaries. That truth in objectivity died with postmodernism. Only sincerity in action creates a sense of what's good. Which is why we believe in pragmatic creativity, environmental conscientiousness, sense of community, and democratized history and culture.


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