Recently I bought beer for a party and was shocked to discover that the local microbrew I thought I'd bring to sample with (and impress) our hosts cost 20 percent more than the imported beer I drink, and nearly twice that of the beer I usually bring to a party.
Apparently, there is a huge market for craft beer. I needed to learn more. So, I did a little research and discovered a number of sources that claim the craft beer craze is largely fueled by the so-called hipsters.
Hipsters love small-batch, craft beer. And, based on my recent purchasing experience, it appears they don't mind paying more for something high in quality, somewhat obscure and distinctive.
While I know that many people like craft beer, I can say definitively that when I visit the local microbrewery I do find myself surrounded by the hipster crowd. It makes this bow tie-clad, higher-ed professional feel a little out of place, but the beer is good and I've been observing these hipsters as I drink my Roller Dam Red Ale.
My observations led me to develop a premise: maybe all of these craft beer-sipping hipsters will be more open-minded to the value proposition of liberal arts colleges when they become parents?
However, I don't know any hipsters, so I should really ask them. But first I had to hunt down a good definition. I turned to the Urban Dictionary (naturally) and found the following:
"Hipsters are a subculture of men and women, typically in their 20s and 30s, who value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter."
This definition got me thinking about the future of liberal arts colleges, and gave me hope. Maybe these hipsters, as parents, will become the new champions of liberal arts colleges?
First, the definition makes me think that as parents, hipsters will embrace the values associated with the liberal arts, and reject the notion of homogenized curriculum and an assembly-line, government-run, corporate-like approach to higher education. Think about it: the pursuit of independent thinking, creativity and wit might be a good mission statement for some liberal arts colleges and might be right up the hipster parents' natural path. (I'm no hipster, but I'd love for my kids to leave college as independent thinkers who are creative and witty.) Simply put, the values associated with great liberal arts education seem to be the same values that hipsters are said to appreciate.
Next, hipsters seem to be OK paying more for something that is authentic and believed to be better. I read in an article recently that many hipsters have abandoned Pabst (who would blame them) for expensive craft beers. If the product is good, authentic and maybe a little weird or at least progressive, hipsters seem to love it and also are willing to pay more. If this value (paying more for something that is better) sticks as the hipsters become parents, high-quality and generally more expensive liberal arts colleges should be a natural for their children.
Should the local microbrewery concoct beer called "Library Pale Ale" or "Humanities Stout" or "Minor Suite Wheat"?
But before every liberal arts college begins advertising in the local microbreweries to get in front of these sometime-to-be parents (although that might be a darn good idea), I have a suspicion that the reason that these expensive craft beers have earned a place in Hipsterville is because of what they represent.
What do they represent?
I think the craft beer industry represents something that inspires trust and creates value. Many craft brewers are authentic, entrepreneurial, creative, frequently bold and always customer-focused. The best liberal arts colleges represent the same.
With luck, they can connect with these hipsters as they have kids, to ensure the liberal arts college becomes the chosen path in higher education for these independent thinkers who value intelligence, creativity and wit.