Craft Beer and the Arts — A Perfect Combination

Today’s blog post is written by Kevin Patterson, Senior Account Executive, PatronManager.

One of the benefits of traveling for work with PatronManager is getting to visit different cities. While business is a priority, there are always a few chances to stop at local craft breweries and sample new beer. Craft brewing has exploded in America. In my home state of Indiana, there are over 120 active craft breweries (that’s a lot). With so many breweries brewing different styles of beer for every conceivable taste, it would seem a difficult feat to develop a loyal following that could sustain a business. Yet craft brewing is flourishing across America. As a percentage of the beer market, it has increased to 12.3% according to the Brewers Association. Why?

Tap handles at a brewery in Seattle, WA — notice the lack of a single major brewer?

As a fan of craft beer and a former craft brewer myself, I think there are three main reasons for the success of craft brewing in America today. These reasons are simple enough to understand, and if arts organizations focused a little more on them, they just might be able to ferment the benefits that would lead to similar success. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

It’s an Experience

After prohibition, with the rise of large commercial breweries like Anheuser Busch, beer became a commodity. Big breweries mastered brewing techniques to deliver the same tasting beer to all parts of the country and at a nominal price. Beer became just another mass produced product. Thanks to a taxation act by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, home brewing became legal again and with it the artistic qualities and experience of brewing beer.

Craft brewing isn’t perfect. The fluctuations in style and quality differ slightly from beer to beer, just like producing art. Each experience is unique and imperfections are not only tolerated but are actually encouraged as part of the artistic process. For breweries, their artistic creation — the beer — is shared with customers and a relationship begins. Breweries then further engage with their customers through tours, tasting rooms, special tapping parties, and seasonal brews. In short, it all becomes about the brewery and its beer.

In the arts, we need to rediscover the engagement that comes from inviting an audience to actually develop a relationship with our organizations and subsequently our artists and staff. By connecting our artists and their product to our audiences, we can develop stronger bonds. For example, what would happen if we broke down the formality of attending our events by tearing down the almost religious strictures that exist in our theatres and performance halls and turned them into parties again? What if we encouraged our audiences to come and go during performances? What if our audience actively interacted with our artists in new ways? What if you put seats in the middle of the orchestra and sprinkled in the audience? What if a performance began as soon as an audience entered the lobby and continued as they moved to their seats? How about a museum “flight” tour with pieces of art selected specifically for a patron? Now that would be an experience!

There is Something for Everyone

Craft breweries are known for exploring beer styles by creating niches that appeal to different audiences. In my home city of Carmel, Indiana there is literally a craft brewery for every possible taste. In the arts, we are just beginning to scratch the surface with this concept. Opera companies are now creating opera in site-specific locations to break their “stuffy stigma” and appeal to younger audiences. Symphony orchestras are showing popular movies — from cult classics to mainstream blockbusters — and playing the respective film scores live. Theatre companies are specializing in reimagining traditional repertoire for non-traditional spaces. In the museum world, pop-up museums are exploding and seem to be everywhere you go. How can we push all of these ideas further and ensure that there is literally an arts event for every possible taste in each of our communities?

The Art is the Beer, the Beer is the Community

Craft breweries cement their connection to their communities because of the fact that their employees are the community. They are ingrained in their neighborhoods in ways that big brewers could never achieve. Like craft breweries, arts organizations are generally well established in their communities. Their employees and, in many cases, their artists come from the surrounding area. By breaking down the fourth wall that keeps the community out of the arts organization, and connecting it to the audience (and by extension the wider community), the organization and the art become more relevant and important to the people around it.

So let’s raise a glass of beer to the arts in our communities. We have much that we can learn from each other. And we can have a great time doing it. Cheers!

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