“Alcohol flows across cultures: Drinking cultures in transnational and comparative perspective”
International Research Symposium, St Anne’s College, Oxford, 29–30 June 2016
"Insuring the Authenticity of Bavarian Beer in a Global Market: The Case of Löwenbräu, 1945-1975"
Robert Terrell (cand. PhD)
Department of History, University of California, San Diego, USA
This paper offers a cultural analysis and political economy of Löwenbräu beer exports in the three decades following the Second World War. Drawing from documents of the brewery, importers and distributors around the world, and an array of print materials including newspapers and magazines, this paper argues that the practicalities of selling high-priced Löwenbräu beer involved the production of an idea of authenticity in consumption and in the commodity itself. The Bavarian, or better, Munich beer was designed to be the Bavarian and German beer par excellence, and the culture of consumption around it, drawn from Munich drinking culture – most notably Oktoberfest and the Biergarten – came to stand in, at least in part, for Germany as a whole. This process was not a homogenously conscious production but rather was a byproduct of the postwar boom years. Marketers, commodity experts, and knowledge makers shaped the “political economy of taste” in the name of selling, and in the process of capital accumulation. The beer was sold as the highest quality, most authentic example of a rich and refined Bavarian and German tradition; and one, it should be explicated, that grew into the void left by a Nazi dictatorship that so many would just as soon silence.
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