Document Type


Publication Date


Subject: LCSH

Beer, Drinking of alcoholic beverages--Marketing, Human geography




Despite decades of domination by a few large companies, the American beer market has seen a dramatic resurgence of microbreweries. Contrary to conventional oligopolistic market theories, small firms have consistently gained market share from their entrenched competitors. Researchers have attributed this success to ‘neolocalism.’ Through their marketing, microbreweries appeal to consumers’ desire for connections to real people and distinctive products from local places. However, no study has verified whether this pattern is most characteristic of microbreweries. With newer firms threatening their market share, larger firms might adopt neolocal claims, but little empirical attention has been directed at large brewers, and mid-sized, regional firms have been largely ignored by researchers. This paper uses content analysis of beer packaging to investigate the nature of the appeals made to consumers. I find that while microbreweries do make neolocal claims, regional breweries are more likely to associate their products with places on a local scale. Large breweries make few such claims, but instead rely on ‘reflexive branding’: marketing that refers back to the brand itself rather than borrowing existing symbolism from people or places. These findings partly support the neolocal perspective, but also challenge our expectations of which firms use neolocal appeals the most.


This is the author's accepted version of the article published in Journal of Cultural Geography. The version of record can be found at



Publisher Citation

Debies-Carl, J. S. (2019). Beyond the local: places, people, and brands in New England beer marketing. Journal of Cultural Geography, 36(1):78-110.

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