The Geography of Beer

Interest in beer lured students into a geography class.

Beer coaster with names of countries. GETTY IMAGES © FOXYSGRAPHIC


The Geography of Beer

Interest in beer lured students into a geography class.

About the course: “Many students are intimidated by geography. The idea was to trick them into taking a class,” said instructor Sean Crotty. He hatched the idea for the course while attending graduate school at San Diego State University, where he saw how students reacted to a colleague’s class on the geography of surfing.

Beer, wine and spirits are found everywhere in the world, with deep ties to each region’s culture and history, offering a perspective on the links between humans and the earth. Students learn geographical thinking and spatial reasoning through the lens of the beer and wine trade.

“All geography classes teach this kind of critical thinking applied to spatial relationships,” said Crotty. “It’s a way of understanding how things are connected, how a drought in the Pacific Northwest could be catastrophic to craft breweries, why someone in Texas should care about what’s happening in Oregon.”

Instructor: Sean Crotty, assistant professor of geography, AddRan College of Liberal Arts

Class time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 to 1:50 p.m.

Class size: 40

Texts: The Geography of Wine: How Landscapes, Cultures, Terroir, and the Weather Make a Good Drop by Brian J. Sommers (Plume, 2008) and The Geography of Beer: Regions, Environment, and Societies by Mark W. Patterson and Nancy Hoalst Pullen (Springer, 2014)

Classwork: Students take three exams testing their ability to apply core concepts of geography and spatial reasoning to the production, transport, sale and consumption of beer and wine.
Students complete assignments using an online geographic information system program to create an interactive map. They then use that online map to answer questions about the beer-themed focus of the assignment.
“There are no class-related field trips, which some students find disappointing,” Crotty said.
— Compiled by Laura Snyder