May 7, 2012

Indy Beer and Indy Music | Uniting the Tribes

We are very excited to welcome Corey Rial as a new member to the BeerPHXation team. Corey brings us a perspective from the Valley indy music scene and the attitude and hyperlocalism that we espouse on this blog. -ED

I wanted my first post on BeerPHXation to encompass my culture of beer in Phoenix, or at the least the culture I am often occupying. This is the culture of live music, be it established venues or fly by night warehouses, places where loud music and consuming beer are congruent.

To gauge a culture, be it art, food, music and the purpose of this, one should take a snapshot of their surroundings and observe the results. What do our restaurants and bars serve? What beers are prominent in our life outside these establishments, what is sold in the convenience stores, who is putting on events, etc. And most importantly what’s in our refrigerators.

We can’t go into peoples homes and evaluate the contents of their refrigerators, but we can observe their beer choices they bring with them.

For a case study along those lines, a band I play in recently played a show at a DIY music venue--a warehouse in a part of town where flying under the radar of established norms isn’t a radical idea, a BYOB establishment that doesn’t necessarily rely on zoning and sound ordinances, let alone liquor laws. We played with an established touring band that excretes DIY and independent ethos, and in turn attracts “like minded” people...or so it would seem. The place was brimming with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Bud Light. Not exactly the libation of free thinkers and society renouncers.
Tragedy May 1st Phoenix. Photo Courtesy Gregory Allen Colson

The question I used to frame this thought process was, “How is a group of people that go as far as to reject local music establishments totally OK with accepting the beer industrial complex?” and “How can we get on restaurants about beer if our creative groups can't pull it together?

The end game goal for restaurants (all business actually) is to turn a profit. They base decisions on what benefits them financially. This is an acceptable practice, as we all need financial stability/money to live.

Places like the Yucca Tap Room or the Lost Leaf, in contrast to the BYOB experience, are spaces that offer craft beer and generally care about creating or at least cater to an atmosphere of higher beer awareness and live music. Whats the reward for these venues to try and grow an appreciation for “craftier” endeavors such as smaller brews and grass roots musical acts if the patrons don’t show the same attitude on their own personal time?

Whilst playing similar DIY/BYOB venues abroad, I have of course seen similar scenarios, but let’s look at Portland for example. There was Pabst, there was Bud Light, but more so, there was Olympia and Rainier. Olympia and Rainier, much like Rolling Rock, are beers in name only, produced by one of the mega conglomerates and marketed to appeal to the beers original image. I am not sure most know this, and probably consume these beers because:

  • They are cheap (number one reason probably)
  • The brand reminds them of a by-gone heritage in the region.

We can look at regional loyalty further, while playing a house show in Chico California, there wasn’t a beer on the premises that wasn’t Sierra Nevada. Chico is a smaller place than Portland which in turn is a smaller place then Phoenix. There are asterisks to these comparisons, but I’ll ask the question. Is our regional economic beer Budweiser? (I would live in a town that had Sierra Nevada as its “cheap” beer any day.)

Is Hensley the provider of our regional beer? Is there a stigma to spending money on a beer that costs more then the price of admittance?  Does craft beer belong in the economic beer category? Would showing up to an underground warehouse event with a growler of 8th Street Ale (same cost as a package of domestic tall cans from the convenience store) attract questionable looks from people involved in the pageantry of looking like they don’t care? Is carrying cheap beer and wearing thrift store clothing a badge of honor more then supporting your local business infrastructure? It seems like it.

To me awareness of how I spend my money has always been the ultimate tool to reject what I disapprove of and to support what I feel is a better alternative. I find it odd that people who want to denounce the Wal-Marts of the world do not take that same vigor to other avenues. It is way more anti-establishment to purchase a six pack of SanTan at Bashas then buying Coors at a Shell station. We can personally see the effects of Bashas and SanTans and in theory actually speak with them if the desire arises, as opposed to a larger national brand.

How are we to hold the people with the most to lose (the restaurants and their money) accountable when the vast majority of sports fans, punk rock fans, artists, weirdos, joe schmoe’s and the rest are free to (carelessly) use our money to keep well enough alone?

If the creative and indy taste makers are making decisions purely on cost and the venues support them, how do we break this cycle? Should we break this cycle? Isn’t it the desire to innovate and impress our peers that drive us to improve/create/take risks? Would a world with less bud light still encourage us to innovate/improve? Or are we fine enough with the dichotomy of indie craft beer fans and folks who just like to drink on the cheap, regardless of its impact on our economy, our culture and our general collective community?

Here are some links for your further consideration:


  1. not all of us can always afford delicious beers!

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  3. take away the local beer angle, a 16oz of new Belgium Shift is $2.50 ish at a convience store (same price point of Becks and heiniken) Take away the local store angle, a Four pack of said Shift is $8 at Total Wine.
    A 3 pack Bud Light 24oz is $6

    64 oz of 5% ABV pale ale
    72oz of 3.88% of Budlight

    $2 cheaper for 8oz of more bud light?

    You can afford it.