At this point of the American brewing industry, it’s safe to say beer is many things to many different people. It can be nothing more than a drink or maybe something to be discussed, but at an increasing rate, it’s also become the core of serious study.
J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham is many things. She’s a teacher, writer, homebrewer, community activist, and more. In many ways, beer finds itself at the center of her wide-ranging universe. As Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Randolph College, she teaches on topics of media and technology, but she’s also long examined the connections between beer and its place in American culture, often through an analysis of people and histories that tell the beneficial and challenging sides of the industry.
For generations, beer has acted as a foundation for so many other aspects of our lives. It’s not just a packaged good or something poured from a tap, but a major piece of our social structure, for good or bad. J.’s work provides context to the stories and myths that surround this beloved thing—a fermented beverage that can bring people together and, at times, push them apart.
With a complex history and culture, beer is a way to better understand the psychological and social realities that surround our lives. It’s a part of who we are, and, as J. shared with me, there’s not always easy answers to the difficult questions beer can raise—as a product or focus of academic study.