Faculty Advisor

Stockdale, Jonathan

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2013


Although explicit references to religion are rare in the marketplace, pictorial representations and rhetoric evocative of religious figures and concepts manifest a unique strategy in contemporary American beer branding. By reflecting societal views, prejudices, and preferences, advertising provides an enclosed narrative of how people think and in turn illustrates the way in which society is structured. This phenomenon discredits the assumption of a strict separation between the secular and the sacred. Beers with religious connotations do not monopolize the market but they do constitute a significant phenomenon in the modern beer industry. Religious references in beer branding often participate in the commodified authentic and cultivate an image of a nostalgic past through idyllic portrayals of monastic brewing. Alternately, beer branding via religion may employ irreverent, blasphemous, or offensive representations. Both the idealized and the indicting representations acknowledge a disparity between the real and the ideal in society. Alcohol’s association with Bacchanalian abandonment of social strictures enables recognition of the contradictions in the professed social order. Yet, in Constructive Drinking, Mary Douglas identifies “drinking as a medium for constructing the actual world”[1] and an exercise in asserting a society’s classifactory schema. The promotional material for beer vividly illustrates the way in which alcohol dually serves to shatter and renew the system and social order. Scrutiny of the two poles of religious representations described reveals that both reassert a hierarchy of humanity and regenerate the reigning social order despite popular recognition of its inconsistencies and its flaws.

[1] Douglas, Constructive Drinking, 9.


University of Puget Sound