Maine Beer Project explores Maine’s beer and brewing culture in its many forms—as food, as commodity, as a node of social networks of consumers and producers, as an expression of identity, and as a shaper of the built environment.

This is a working project, in the sense that it is incomplete, speculative, and messy—designed to adapt to new sources of information that help us better understand Maine’s beer culture, past and present. We invite reader comments and participation. You can contact Maine Beer Project on twitter at @maine_beer, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mainebeerproject/, or Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/maine_beer_project/.

This project is public and transparent by design, distinguishing it from much traditional scholarly work. A typical academic approach, as much as there is one, might be to read books and articles written by scholars and beer enthusiasts; analyze sources like newspaper articles and industry reports; listen to interviews with brewers; interpret logos and bottle designs; visit tasting rooms and brewhouses, observing and noting how they are designed and what goes on there; and talk to drinkers and people in the industry. Indeed, we will (and have) done many if not all of these things. And like a more traditional scholarly path, much of this work might lead to presentations at conferences with other scholars (yes, there are beer scholars), where ideas get tested—ideas that might then evolve into articles for academic journals or a book published by a university press. This is a relatively closed system, with the fruits of labor reaching a relatively narrow audience in the end. Some of the ideas explored on this site might march this road, ending up in a conference paper, a journal article, or a book; it’s too early to tell.

But from the start, the Maine Beer Project will live and evolve along a different path. It will take advantage of the digital, both as a dynamic platform that enables different ways of processing and expressing ideas (for example, through interactive maps, multimedia timelines, or dynamic data visualizations) and as a mechanism for cultivating an audience and research community.

We’re talking about beer here. Drinkers and brewers are passionate about beer and co-authors of its cultures.

Some might be interested in thinking more about the ways those cultures are formed. Hopefully, some will be interested in helping us make sense of these cultures. In other words, we need you. If you are reading this, you probably have ideas about what beer is and means—as a crafted artifact, as a component of the landscape, as a social glue connecting people present and past.

This project is public and transparent by design. We will post on the fly, before ideas are fully formed and vetted. Like all research, this is a sort of experiment—hypotheses will be challenged and seemingly promising arguments will fall apart under the weight of evidence.

What will turn up here? Hopefully things we didn’t expect.