The Hipster in the Grange: Craft Breweries and Urban Aesthetics in Rural Maine Communities

Authors: Benjamin Lisle*, Colby College
Topics: Cultural Geography, Rural Geography, Tourism Geography
Keywords: craft beer, tourism, consumption
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Plaza Court 1, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Much has been made of craft beer culture’s “neolocal” orientation and place-making practices. Craft breweries often draw on local iconography as part of their brand identities. They develop programming around local organizations, as a form of community building. These phenomena are true for both urban and rural breweries. The aesthetics of rural life—from spectacular wilderness to romantic agriculturalism—have long marked craft beer branding, readily employed even in urban environments. But what happens when this is reversed—when urban aesthetics are imported into rural environments? This paper examines the integration of “urban” taste cultures and drinking populations into rural tasting rooms, looking particularly at two Maine breweries that have exported the distinctly hip aesthetics usually associated with urban culture to satellite tasting rooms in rural areas upstate. Oxbow Brewing’s original farmhouse facility in the Maine countryside (“Goods from the Woods”) has spawned both a tasting room anchoring Portland’s rapidly gentrifying Washington Avenue, as well as a second rural facility in a refurbished barn, at the center of a forest trail system. Bissell Brothers Brewing—a pioneer in the wave of hazy IPAs, own-premise sales, and self-distribution—recently opened a second facility in tiny and remote Milo, the hometown of the eponymous brothers. This paper explores the effects of drawing affluent urbanites and tourists into rural communities, the motivations of brewers to do so, the possibilities of such places as stages for meaningful cross-class interactions, and the risks of cultural gentrification—in line with a century-and-a-half of affluent colonization of the state known as “Vacationland.”

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