“Can I get a PBR?”
“Nope. How about a Narragansett?”
“Oh, ok. Wait…is that Fiddlehead IPA on tap? I’ll have that instead!”
Three nights in a row last week I stood by the bar at Higher Ground to see punk rock legends Bad Religion, G.B.H. & Anti-Flag do their thing and I overheard this same interaction a lot. Sometimes the spikey-haired, leather-and-metal-clad punk rockers would opt for the cheap tall boy can of Narragansett, but frequently they’d trade up to get a pint of local beer instead.
I reveled in the fact that the knee-jerk reaction of just getting a PBR can at a punk show had been disrupted by Vermont’s localvore milieu. After the initial shock subsided, local brews would flow from the tap into waiting clear plastic cups. Zero Gravity “Green State Lager” and Lawson’s Finest Liquids “Super Session IPA #2” were popular choices along side Fiddlehead IPA.
I stood there, all three nights, smiling to myself while the bands blasted away on their instruments, and I watched pint after pint of local beer walk out into the mosh pit. What made me smile wasn’t just the fact that local beer was winning over mass-produced adjunct lager, but also how similar the beer and punk communities are.
When I was in middle school I heard my first punk song and was forever changed. I went to dingy clubs to go see punk shows and met like-minded people there. The punk community was very welcoming and surprisingly warm and loving. While the music seems angry and chaotic on the surface, a lot of punk songs expose social issues and espouse community building and inclusion of all peoples. I had joined a family of politically motivated activists who fought to end social injustices and shake-up the status quo through music.
As I thought about these core, punk community values, I started to realize that many of them are the same embraced by the craft beer community. Shaking up the status quo of flavor is a founding tenet of the craft beer movement. Likewise with community building and a sense of inclusion. Many craft breweries form themselves around the idea of enriching and supporting their local areas, providing not only jobs and tax revenue, but also a gathering place for neighbors to meet up and raise a pint together.
Both communities at their cores are centered around a sense of rebellion. Rebellion against big business, against blandness, against cheap commodities in favor of something with heart and soul, with substance.
There was probably a day in the history of punk when drinking a craft beer would have been considered too bourgeois. But here in Vermont, where “local” is rebellion against Big Ag, drinking a locally brewed craft beer is the best way to stick it to The Man and support your community.
A version of this post ran in the Burlington Free Press under the title “What craft beer and punk rock have in common.”
Thanks to Matthew ‘Fuj’ Scher for the photograph. Visit his blog here.