I'm Bringing Beer and Culture Together!

I'm Bringing Beer and Culture Together!
Poster for the PCA/ACA conference in Chicago.

On April 16-19, scholars from around the world will converge on Chicago's Marriott Magnificent Mile for the Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association's annual conference.

Over 2,500 academic papers will be presented analyzing all aspects of mainstream culture: popular music, movies, TV shows, genre fiction. Yes, that's right, this is the kind of conference which gets right-wing bloviators huffed up because "They're wasting money doing a conference that takes 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' seriously!" That's right, because its millions of fans means it's serious to someone out there.

Why am I telling about this? And what does this have to do with beer? Time to delve into a small portion of My Life Story.

In the mid 19-umpty's, I earned a Master's Degree in Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. This was the school where Ray B. Browne established the first degree program in Popular Culture studies. I taught the course to incoming freshmen while the learning the ways of PC scholarship, and went to some of the PCA/ACA conferences to present papers on diverse topics like Cerebus the Aardvark and the films of Terry Gilliam.

Even after graduation I wrote papers on topics like C.W. McCall, just to present them in interesting cities where the conference was being held that year, like Toronto, Las Vegas, or New Orleans. And I contributed entries to The Encyclopedia of Television, published by Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications, and several entries for the Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, published by Dr. Browne.

More recently, I had articles published an academic publications about Star Wars fandom, James Bond movie songs, 70's "rockomic" LPs featuring Spider-Man, Captain America, Marvel Zombies, and the history of "riffing" before Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (I dared to connect Euripides, Bugs Bunny, Tales From the Crypt, and Rocky Horror to MST3K!).

When I learned last year that the 2014 PCA/ACA would be in Chicago, I decided to propose a panel on the culture of beer, especially on craft beer and its fans, as I have observed, participated and written about for over ten years. I was delighted to find that my proposal was accepted, and later on that nine other papers would also be presented, some by academics with brewing credentials. So now I will be hosting three panels all Friday afternoon:

Beer Culture I: Icons, Labels, and Media:

Dressed to Impress: An examination of label design in the craft beer industry; David Begley, University of North Florida
Natural Assumptions: Nature’s Role in Wine and Beer Labeling; Cristine Busser, Georgia State University
Reflections of Tradition and Innovation: An Exploration of Brewer’s Iconography; Paul Bruski, Iowa State University
Spaces & Gaps: Navigating a Mediated Craft Beer Culture; Wesley Shumar, Drexel University.

Beer Culture II: Women, Fans, and Transcendence:

Drink Like a Girl: The Paradox Facing the Woman Craft Beer Drinker and Craft Beer Culture as a Potential Feminist Space; Michelle Parke, Carroll Community College
She’s Crafty: An Ethnographic Study of Female Beer Enthusiasts; Annie Sugar, University of Colorado-Boulder
Homebrewing Transcendentalism; Adam Deutsch, Ashford University
Fermenting Fandom: Craft Beer as a Fan Culture; Mark McDermott, Independent

Beer Culture III: Evolution & Bitterness:

Urban growth and the brewing industry: correlating trends from 1840 to the present; Denese Neu, National Louis University
The Wasted Land: Brewing a British Home and Heritage; Shannon Butts, University of Florida

Regrettably, I cannot offer my readers the chance to sit in on these sessions, as the conference is open to paid attendees only (since there are about 2,500 coming). And we will be unable to open and pour beer at the panels anyway; hotel rules. I'd like to think every presentation will be streamed somewhere, but I'm betting not, and my video recorder is one digital camera that shoots video 8 minutes at a time. But I will link to any of these papers that the authors care to put on-line.

And following Friday's panels, we'll be piling into the Chicago Brew Bus so I can take our visitors around to some of the prime beer meccas nearby. The hotel is already near Eataly's Birreria and Rock Bottom Chicago, and the Marriott's onw Lobby Bar has some locally-made brews, too. So we'll be headed a bit north, likely Goose Island Clybourn, and whatever other locations can accommodate a tour bus on a Friday evening.

Meantime, to any establishments that do a lot of convention business, I'd suggest you make sure the Marriott's concierge has a good supply of your flyers and specials!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I still need to write my presentation!

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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