CHICAGO — For some, beer is just a drink — but for Liz Garibay and other historians and brewers, beer marks a fascinating intersection of culture, food and history.
“Beer is more than just a beverage,” said Garibay, the executive director of Chicago Brewseum. “Through space and time, it’s been a catalyst for change.”
The Brewseum will hold its third annual Beer Culture Summit starting Nov. 4. For four days, attendees will discuss beer through the lens of culture and history in virtual sessions and in-person events. Sessions cover everything from neolithic and Bronze Age brewing to a panel on South Asians in Beer.
The summit runs Nov. 4-7. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.
The idea for the summit came from Garibay’s experiences going to separate conferences for beer, museums and academia. The conferences were a bit insular, she said: People presented the same material to the same people. There were overlaps in ideas, but there was not cross-discipline discussions between academics and museum and beer professionals. Garibay saw an opportunity to have a conference bringing together all three worlds with people of different backgrounds to experience and discuss beer.
“Beer is really kind of everyone’s story. It’s certainly a beverage that crosses cultural boundaries and social-economic boundaries, so it’s very accessible,” Garibay said.
Garibay thinks it’s critical to “feature and focus on lesser representative groups, so that is always going to be a key goal of the summit.” This year’s featured topic is sexism, so there are many sessions about women in beer historically and today.
The summit will kick off Nov. 4 at Pilot Project Brewing, 2140 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square., with a panel about sexism in the beer industry with brewer Brienne Allan.
Mary Swabel, Pilot Project’s director of hospitality, said “there isn’t a ton of opportunity to talk about race, culture, gender and sexual orientation within the beer space already.” She thinks these events are critical, as they allow people to have candid conversations about what it is like to be a woman in the beer industry.
Compared to other conferences that cost hundreds of dollars, Garibay made sure the Beer Culture Summit would be more affordable. A day’s session costs $25. The virtual programs also allow people from around the world to participate.
“Everyday people who really just want to sit and learn and be together in some shape or form can do so,” Garibay said.
Tara Nurin, a visiting presenter, beer journalist and author of “A Woman’s Place Is in the Brewhouse,” attended last year’s all-virtual summit and was enthralled.
“I basically sat glued to my computer screen for three whole days,” Nurin said. “I’ve attended tons of beer conferences, but I’d never attended one that had focused on history and culture.”
This year, Nurin will present “Prohibition: For American Women, The Most Failed Experiment in the History of The Republic is the Gift that Keeps on Giving.” Her session will explore the impact Prohibition had on women’s lives, including the benefits it presented them. She’ll explore the impact of Prohibition on fashion, entrepreneurship, lifestyle choices, as well as how it changed social mores about women drinking and participating in the public.
Nurin is looking forward to learning from fellow presenters and participants — especially at the sessions on women in brewing.
Nurin said beer does not often get the respect it deserves, but the summit shows the wealth of scholars who focus on the drink.
“I can’t wait to learn what I don’t already know about women in beer history,” she said.
Ultimately, Garibay and Brewseum hope to bring something unique to Chicago and the beer world.
“There has never been a conference like this that offers such diversity and content and people and authors as much accessibility,” Garibay said. “I think it’s incredibly special. No one’s doing it.”
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