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Booze & Culture

Booze and Culture is an academic multimedia collective that focuses on the dissemination of anthropological research through the lens of alcohol. Within the Penn State Department of Anthropology, Kirk D. French, with whom I have worked since my freshman year, created this organization with the goal of educating people both in the classroom and out of the real world on how we are all much more alike than we are dissimilar. What better unifying thread than alcohol, the most common psychoactive ritual drug.

Community, Survival, and the Art of Likker Makin'

Maggie Valley, NC

This anthropological documentary short examines the social and economic impacts of moonshine production in the Maggie Valley region of western North Carolina. In this region, the production of moonshine/unaged corn whiskey/likker is a vital cultural linchpin that connects everyone, no matter their background. We quickly found that everyone had a story to tell.

Somethin' You Sip: The Elevated Mountain Distilling Co. Story

Maggie Valley, NC

When you set out to film a documentary on the culture of moonshine in the mountains of western North Carolina, you come across a wide range of characters. One of those was the owner of Elevated Mountain Distilling Company and Maggie Valley native, Dave Angel. This video outlines the story of both him and his distillery, the first-ever legal producer of alcohol in the region.

Distilling Shamiin Arkhi

Bulgan Province, Mongolia

Penn State professor Kirk French, the creator of the Booze & Culture education and multimedia conglomerate, travelled to a remote part of Mongolia in August of 2016. Here he set out to study the production of airag (also known as kumis), a low-ABV (~2 – 3%) fermented mare milk beverage, and shamiin arkhi, or distilled mare milk vodka. The former is produced by letting the fresh mare milk ferment with intermittent stirring by the family members in charge of every step of the process. The latter is created by taking the airag/kumis kefir and distilling it, making a higher-octane spirit in the ABV range of 20 – 25%. This video outlines the distillation process of shamiin arkhi.

Tailgate Behavior Project: The drinking rituals of Penn State football tailgating University Park, Pennsylvania

Part of the Booze & Culture project is examining behaviors of tailgating, a tradition of enormous proportions at a school like Penn State. Fans flock from all over to State College every fall Saturday for football games. Along with this influx of people comes an enormous amount of food, alcohol, and tradition. This video shows some of these behaviors.

Tailgate Behavior Project: Trash archaeology the day after a Penn State football game University Park, Pennsylvania

Along with the ethnographic study of tailgating behavior comes the much less glamorous side of research of digging through trash the next morning. After a full day of interviews around the endless landscape of tailgates, a team of met before sunrise to dig through the remnants of the previous day.

Photo by Elijah Hermitt
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