Speaker: City’s identity can be built like craft beer


JASPER — The challenge: Think of the city like a good craft beer.

Writer, speaker and craft beer enthusiast Bill Riley of Terre Haute issued the challenge to about 30 people Wednesday evening at the Parklands Pavilion. His presentation — Something’s Brewing - What Craft Beer Can Teach Us About Creative Place Making in Indiana — challenged attendees to think creatively about building the identity of the community through the lens of craft beer.

The event was part of a collaboration with the Jasper Public Library, Dubois County Museum and Jasper Community Arts that was awarded $1,500 by Indiana Humanities to host local programs exploring themes from a traveling Smithsonian-curated exhibit titled “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

To make a good beer, Riley said, brewers need water, hops, barley and yeast. The water is the beer’s essence; the hops has multiple uses; barley grows the beer; and the yeast makes it funky. To engage in creative placemaking, cities need to combine elements with the same purposes as the beer ingredients.

The National Endowment for the Arts coined creative placemaking in a 2010 white paper that defined the process as public, private and nonprofit entities all working together to shape the social and physical characteristics of communities.

To get the audience thinking about Jasper, Riley asked a series of questions: What is the community’s water? What is it’s hops? What is its barley? What is its yeast?

To explain the importance of water as the center of the recipe, Riley pointed to the Irish stout.

“The dry Irish stout is the dry Irish stout because of the minerals in the water where it’s made,” he said.

When asked to identify Jasper’s water — its essence — attendees identified the Patoka River, turkey and grain farming and, of course, the German heritage.

“That’s thick here,” Jay Kidwell of Jasper said of the city’s heritage. “You have to use that.”

For hops — those multi-use spaces — attendees pointed to the many projects going on throughout the city to revitalize old industrial neighborhoods. Riley pointed out that craft breweries could be a key part of that revitalization. He shared the story of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis tapping into the city’s craft beer scene to attract donors from the younger generation. Now, an annual craft beer festival, The Fest of Ale, is held on the garden’s grounds.

“They looked at the Missouri Botanical Gardens as a multi-use space,” Riley said. “What multi-use spaces do you have?”

For the barley — the growth — Riley shared the story of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina. The brewery set up in an industrial neighborhood, commissioned a giant mural for one of its exterior walls and transformed the area into an arts hot spot.

As for the yeast — the parts that make a neighborhood funky — Riley talked about some of the unique events hosted at craft breweries across the country, such as Yoga and Beer events, concerts and theater performances.

“Craft beer is doing the kind of things we want to do with creative placemaking,” Riley said.

After Riley’s presentation, attendees stuck around to chat and sample beers from two local craft breweries — Basket Case Brewing Co. of Jasper and St. Benedict’s Brew Works of Ferdinand — and continue the conversations. Basket Case Brewing owner Ben Nowotarski said Riley’s presentation got him thinking about other ways his brewery can get more involved with the community.

“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do,” Nowotarski said.

Going forward, Riley said, if the community wants to engage in creative placemaking, it’ll have to do what craft beer does really well: get hyperlocal.

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