Craft brewing and community in Austin, Texas : the Black Star Co-op



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This report attempts to determine what craft beer can tell us about American culture, and to situate craft brewing within the larger discourse on food and locality. Following political scientist Carlton Larsen, who posited that craft beer associations are creating a “nascent public sphere within the dynamics of profit-driven production,” and that proponents of the craft beer community see it as “constituting a pragmatic, alternative community to international capitalist mass production,” I investigate Austin, Texas’ Black Star Co-op, the first cooperatively owned brewpub in the United States. I also take inspiration from Amy Trubek’s formulation of the American “taste of place,” which builds on and adapts the French concept of terroir. Trubek argues that the taste of place in America needs to be entrepreneurial and based in community, and that “taste makers” in America are engaged in a process of synthesis, blending our nation’s many historical pasts with its present to create a new taste of place. I argue that Black Star’s unique position as both a taste-making institution and as a business based in the economic radicalism of cooperative self-management and participatory economics allows them the possibility of a degree of local influence that goes beyond what Trubek or Larsen had previously envisioned. I conclude by arguing for an expansion of Trubek’s model that would comprehensively chart the taste of place in a single location, such as Austin, Texas, by looking at various institutions in all aspects of community life.