If the pleasure of the text is the recognition of contradictions in all textual encounters, then Black Friday for craft beer enthusiasts has to be a pleasure text. While some of us may eschew the Walmart frenzy that accompanies an insane populace lining up to spend half price on crap and beat the crap out of each other while doing so, the rest of us may have been lining up to purchase whatever Goose Island Bourbon County Bourbon Stout variants that were released into our market. And line up many of us did, despite the controversy of craft vs. crafty which has surrounded Goose Island ever since it was purchased by InBev. Craft? Crafty? No one cared. People lined up. At Binny’s in Chicago, it looked like the line when on for some time. At the local Liquor Barn and Shenanigans, the line was maybe 20 people. But it was a line.
One might think that the lines were created by Goose Island. Each store allotted BCBS to sell put a Black Friday poster in the window announcing the big sale, a poster made by Goose Island. Online threads spread word of the Black Friday sale. Without the posters and accompanied Goose Island hype, would anyone have lined up? We’ve never lined up previously for BCBS. Only five years ago, it sat on shelve for some time. For the last two years, I’ve walked into a store and bought a four pack or two with no problem. Lines aren’t born; they are made.
After the purchases and lining up, though, come the “haul” pictures. All over the Internet, people posted photographs of their hauls, their massive purchases of Goose Island products bought on Black Friday, and shared them on various social media sites. Several photographs posted in the ISO:FT Facebook forum, for instance, posed outrageous hauls of beers that are supposed to be difficult to obtain.
This photograph of a haul in the back of a pickup truck, for example, reveals over $1,000 in beer when most people were only able to spend $40 or so on two four packs. This is, by the way, not my photograph.
This photograph, as well, reveals a considerable amount of money spent on multiple bottles, many of which we did not see locally. This, too, is not my photograph. We don’t celebrate Christmas in my house.
None of this discussion is a complaint as some forums have done. Instead, this is a reflection on the pleasure of the text. Even as I – who have never waited in a line on Black Friday and only waited in a line for beer on Dark Lord Day – tweeted on Friday as I waited in line: I feel dirty. I’m waiting in line for beer. Good beer. Beer that I want. But I’m waiting in line. Waiting in line is supposed to be stupid: I’m waiting to spend money. I’m waiting to give someone else my money. I’m being inconvenienced to give someone else my money. Does that make sense?
I’ve been writing about terroir as emotional (following Trubek) rather than only being land based. If Goose Island captures a sense of terroir, it is not because of the brewery’s origins and locations in Chicago nor is it because of the brewery’s current ownership. Goose Island’s terroir is based on an emerging emotional connection – one nowhere near as dominant five years ago when BCBS bottles sat in grocery store coolers for months – tied to an obsession with limited release barrel aged beers. What I’ve called “networked terroir” involves the many forces that go into creating an emotional connection to beer. A poster. Hyped promotion. The belief that lines will form, so one has to line up as well. Putting beer in barrels and creating different versions. These items all help create networked terroir – in addition to the beer itself’s role (i.e., its taste or quality). What doesn’t seem to have helped generate a networked terroir here is the term crafty. Crafty should have negated the network’s power to attract, if indeed the term generates negative connotations for the beer network Goose Island is in. It didn’t. People lined up.
And that is how the pleasure of the text works. Contradictions don’t necessarily prevent behavior; they help create behavior. Someone may benefit from universal health care, and that person amy still reject the idea as socialism. Someone may hate craft brands such as Blue Moon, but line up to buy Goose Island. We don’t resist contradictions, at times; we may embrace them.
And because the pleasure of the text is the acceptance of textual contradiction, I also have to recognize that any critique of Goose Island and Black Friday (which I’m not sure I’m doing anyway) still must include me as well. I, after all, also lined up. And since I lined up, I, too, it seems should post the obligatory haul picture even if it makes me uncomfortable to do so. I’m no longer a fan of haul pictures (though I have posted many on Flickr, Google + and Instagram over the last couple years). I don’t want to brag. I don’t want to admit to what I spent. I don’t want to participate in this showing off that has become a public circulation of what something might mean (“these beers are worth hoarding”). But I can’t pretend I didn’t contribute to the terroir as much as anyone else. As soon as I line up, I’m helping foster networked terroir. And as soon as I post my picture, I am part of this networked terroir as well. That’s how networks work. They aren’t built as much as they are ever-moving connections and disconnections, many of which we are a part of whether we realize it or not.