Place-Making Through Beer-Drinking: A Case Study of Montana’s Craft Breweries


Geographical Review

Ann M. Fletchall

American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?

Ann M. Fletchall: The main purpose of my study is to explore the ways that visiting a craft brewery can create a connection to place. In Montana, where I live, state identity is strongly expressed through the names and themes of state’s 60+ craft breweries, and I wanted to address the impacts of this on brewery visitors, as well as other motivations for visiting a craft brewery.


American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?

Ann M. Fletchall: Craft breweries are a rapidly growing phenomenon in many parts of the country, and this trend is part of the neolocal movement. Even though most patrons will say that the taste of the beer is the most important reason for frequenting, there is more to it than that. I believe that my study provides a more concrete explanation for some of the feelings surrounding craft breweries and attachments to place that these breweries facilitate.


American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?

Ann M. Fletchall: My study is an extension of Schnell and Reese’s (2003, 2014) analysis of brewery names throughout the country. My study takes this a step further by honing in on one particular place, Montana, and uses surveys to discover the other ways, in addition to names and themes, through which breweries facilitate a connection to place.


American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?

Ann M. Fletchall: First, breweries in Montana use a lot of nature and “outdoorsy” imagery to promote their beers. The themes of fishing and rivers, mountains, and wildlife were most prominent in brewery and beer names.

Second, through surveys of brewery visitors, I found that, besides the taste of the beer, many view visiting a brewery as way to get a sense of the town and community that the brewery is located in. Breweries provide a “snapshot” of the local community, and it is this seeming authenticity that appeals to many visitors. ber

American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?

Ann M. Fletchall: My study is about place and place-making. When theorizing the process of place-making, I contend that place is a process and an ever-changing amalgam of images from TV or movies, tourist brochures, and other previous associations. Place-making is also about making a meaningful connection to place. Brewery imagery becomes a part of that collection of images that shapes our sense of place. Additionally, visiting a brewery, lingering over a beer, and chatting with locals offers a chance to make that meaningful connection. To my knowledge, craft breweries’ role in the place-making process hasn’t yet been explored to this degree.


American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?

Ann M. Fletchall: For me, geography all comes back to attempting to explain what makes places unique. As I state in the opening of my paper, I was drawn to breweries as a way to get to know Montana, as a unique place. In essence, my study shows that craft breweries are a way that this uniqueness is expressed and materialized.

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