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Helping breweries foster stronger, more resilient communities

Welcome to the Brewing Social Capital Resource Hub. This site includes an introduction to the theory of social capital, the role breweries can play in increasing this key resource, as well as ways breweries across the country have already incorporated these methods. This hub seeks to make it easier for breweries to be intentional in their plans to foster resilience.

Building a more resilient community not only makes your city stronger — it makes your institution stronger! 

Social capital is a topic of increasing interest to researchers exploring how communities respond to shocks — whether from natural hazards to economic recessions to terrorist attacks. Social capital is defined as networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups. Communities with higher rates of social capital have been found to recover quicker and more holistically than other communities, which underscores how valuable this resource is.

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Bonding social capital describes connections and networks of people who share similar characteristics — whether that be language, political views, ethnic background.




Bridging social capital connects dissimilar people though a weaker bond — such as a social club, a sports team, or mutual friends.


Linking social capital describes vertical connections between residents and those in “power” — typically political or governmental positions.


Fostering social capital is not a simple task. This is not something which governments can simply fund to easily foster. There are three key types of social capital which are broken down below. Hover over each one for more details:

Fostering social capital makes your community more resilient to shocks like the COVID-19 economic recession.

This hub will focus on these six pillars of social capital:  scroll over the pillars to learn more about each one!


This refers to a sense of connectedness to places and people, as well as levels of involvement in the community.



This refers to feeling empowered to join and meaningfully contribute.



This refers to morals and common practices which are of importance.



Social capital can take many forms. As you can imagine, these are not simple, clear-cut categories. To help you understand these concepts better, they have been separated into six pillars below. Take notice though — these pillars overlap and intersect. Social capital is an intensely collaborative resource, so this makes sense. Focusing attention on these pillars will improve your communities social capital, and thus make your community more resilient.


This refers to feeling safe in your space, as well as feeling valued and trusted by your peers.



This refers to cooperation toward a shared goal and outcome, with universal contributions to ensure universal benefits.



This refers to feeling heard and in control over the future of your community.



This hub seeks to make it easier for breweries to be intentional in their plans to foster resilience. 

So why does any of this matter to you? Drawing on my own experience working at a bar, I saw firsthand how breweries and brewpubs already embody many of the principles which promote social capital. This hub seeks to make it easier for breweries to be intentional in their plans to foster resilience. This will make your business more sustainable in many definitions of the term — not just financially and environmentally, but through building lasting networks that make your communities more able and ready to respond to shocks.

Specifically, higher social capital benefits communities experiencing hardships by:

  1. Preventing exit and promoting rebuilding; 

  2. Promoting collective action among community members 

  3. Providing informal insurance through mutual aid

By fostering these six pillars above, you can enhance your bonding, bridging, and linking connections, to build a more resilient community.

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As part of this process, nearly 150 breweries across 33 states were surveyed. The following is an overview of the findings which informed these recommendations.

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The outreach phase of this study reached 146 breweries in 33 different states. Responses by state can be seen in the figure to the left. 

One particular reason breweries became an area of interest was their success over the last two decades, against odds amidst the 2008 recession caused by the collapse of the housing market. During this period, the number of breweries doubled, as well as the number of employees. This was reflected in the number of responses as well — with nearly 2/3  having first opened their doors since 2010. (Click here to see a map I created of all the breweries, taprooms, and more in the American Brewers Assocation directory)

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The number of breweries and brewery employees has more than doubled since 2008 — and more than 67% of respondents opened since 2010.

Less than half of microbreweries

strongly believe their institution fosters aid and assistance.

The survey was threefold, collecting data on:

  • Perception of themselves

  • Personal practices

  • Perception of their community. 


Responses were collected from employees at various levels within the organizations — from owners to bartenders. These findings informed the recommendations in the next section, but greater details are available in the slider below. 

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Many breweries are already promoting social capital — but the majority don't realize the role they play in creating an informal insurance in their community. 

Scroll over these to see why they matter.


While a vast majority of breweries strongly believe their institution fosters community (77%), trust (66%), and friendliness (78%), less than half (47%) strongly believe their institution fosters aid and assistance.


Creating employment opportunities with transferable skills and invests in people boosts trust and security in the long-term.


The strong emphasis on sustainability across most breweries is indicative of strong values and reciprocity to the community the breweries operate within.


The lack of formal support increases the need for investing in social capital — this will promote regrowth and retain community members after the pandemic and recession.


Partnering with local community groups is a great way to foster several pillars of social capital — from citizen power to participation to sense of belonging.


This is particularly helpful for transition economies — another cause of economic duress, spurred by automation for instance — to make it easier for employees to find work

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So where exactly do breweries fit into this process?

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In many cases, breweries are already doing many things which promotes social capital.  This Hub serves as a reference guide for breweries to incorporate best practices to help themselves, and their communities, down the line. The goal of these recommendations was to craft and collect new approaches for breweries to consider.

The findings and some examples have been summarized in a two-page version, available for download to the right. As a reminder — these pillars more like a venn diagram than separate pillars. They intersect and overlap — so developing new plans will likely touch on many of these at the same time

Below, you will also find specific suggestions across each of the six pillars — hover over each one to see further details.

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two page abbreviated summary

of  recommendations


This is perhaps the most "natural" of the six categories for breweries: by offering a community space for people to gather, people feel at home and connected. However, this can go beyond patrons of the bar through:

  • Pride in city/location through design & branding

  • Partnerships with local organizations in special-benefit beers

  • Partnering with local elected officials to host forums on public issues

  • Distribution networks boost tourism and visibility for your community



This sentiment is naturally facilitated given the hyper-local nature of brewery ownership.

  • Workforce training to employees to foster transferable skills

  • Commercial partnerships with other businesses, including food trucks and other vendors who you can host for pop-up events

  • Respond to current events in your community



The brewing industry is very connected with local non-profits, and there is a huge potential for deeper, more meaningful collaboration with these kinds of groups.

  • Develop a clear mission statement, with intentional dedication to serving your community as more than just a brewery

  • Recycling and sustainability initiatives: including finding local farmers to take spent grain, instituting a re-usable growler/deposit system

  • Creative collaboration with local non-profits that go beyond fundraising



Community members and businesses have a mutual interest in the future of your town/city. Opening up with your vision, and listening to what other groups advocate for, will help you establish your institution as both empowering others and a key voice in the future of your community.

  • Hosting civic engagement events, including voter registration initiatives

  • Offering spaces to local community groups

  • Collaborating with local tourism offices to offer space to traveling journalists



A huge part of empowering your community members to "join in" is to invite them and ask — so craft new ways and systems which might attract different crowds to foster wider audiences and participation.

  • Hosting virtual concerts during COVID to offer "virtual" third spaces for communities to gather

  • Using social media to engage with community members

  • Partnering with local artists for paid public art projects, including murals



This principle is based around the fact that your business is dependent on the community — so your return/investment in them is a sign of trust and appreciation. ​

  • Hosting artisan or farmers markets in your outdoor space

  • Repurposing old spaces or industrial buildings through renovation or arts projects

  • Engagement with local commerce boards and governments, opening space up for events and announcements


If you have any suggestions or best practices from your brewery that you'd like to share,  let me know!  

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Below are some of the best practices breweries

are already implementing along each of the six pillars for

your reference and inspiration

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East Brother Beer Co. has numerous initiatives which embody the Sense of Belonging pillar. They curate a bi-monthly blog which features local community members and artisans. Throughout COVID-19 and civil unrest this last summer, they invited local officials (including the mayor) as well as activists for conversations about  issues which directly impact their town. Additionally, their "Pride and Purpose" mantra instills a pride in their location of Richmond, California.

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Warped Wing Brewing Company, based in Dayton, Ohio, saw their community undergo many hardships in the summer of 2019. From devastating tornados to a mass-casualty shooting, they jumped into action to support their community. From offering food to first responders to developing a special benefit beer to organizing and hosting blood drives to raising tens of thousands of dollars, they recognized a need to stand up in their community and helped channel energy to those in need. This kind of visibility not only helps the community immediately recover, but also builds trust in the brewery and community.

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Riverlands Brewing Company recognized the many artists who were struggling during COVID, and used their digital presence to host virtual concerts. These kinds of initiatives helped maintain (and strengthen) relationships with parters who would have otherwise performed at their club, and helped create a virtual "third space" for the community to gather in during social distancing.

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Fargo Brewing Company isn't afraid to get creative in their partnerships with community organizations and initiatives, which has led to them becoming a prominent institution within the city of Fargo. Their initiative with an animal shelter to put dogs available for adoption on the outside of their cans sparked a trend across the country to promote adoption. Their latest initiative to encourage donations toward breast cancer research rewards donors with a specialty pink beer — delivered by the brewer in a pink suit. These kinds of creative initiatives go beyond just hosting a one-night event for a charity. They create lasting partnerships that also bring community members together.

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Green Bench Brewing Company in St. Petersburg, Florida regularly partners with local organizations to use their space for free. The local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter uses their venue for monthly orientations with new volunteers. This summer, they also raised funds for the local African American History Museum as well.

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Ancient City Brewing in St. Augustine, Florida recognized that local vendors and stores were struggling amid the COVID-19 shutdowns. To help, they opened their outdoor space free of charge to vendors for an open-air, COVID-compliant market to allow local businesses to sell their goods. This fosters good-will in your community and also signals your organization as a leader among commercial groups.

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This study was conducted as part of a Capstone Project in the Masters of Security & Resilience Studies Program at Northeastern University in Boston.

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If you would like to chat with me about how to incorporate these principles into your brewery, please reach out — I'd be happy to talk!

Hi, thanks for taking a look at my research.

My name is Eric Schulz, and this is part of a year-long research project I conducted as part of my capstone project in the Security and Resilience Studies Masters Program at Northeastern University. Drawing on my own experience working at a bar in Ohio, I knew how valuable local breweries were to communities and saw many parallels to the study of community resilience and social capital. With the hypothesis that breweries are uniquely positioned to strengthen communities facing economic hardships, I began this project. 

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked an entirely new economic recession to explore — and underscored how critical social capital can be. Getting to chat with bar-owners and brewers across the country has been such an inspiring and fun task, and I am so grateful to the many, many folks who took time to talk with me.

Special thanks to my advisor, Dr. Daniel Aldrich, for his support and enthusiasm; to the breweries and many employees who took time to talk with me; and to my colleagues and classmates Larissa Morikawa and Brenna Ransden for support in editing and reviewing my research.

Survey questions are available online here.
Survey disclaimer is available online here.

© Eric Schulz 2020

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