Millstream Brewing Co. is one of the older independents in the midwest. They're in Iowa, bordering me (Minnesota) to the south.
Maybe it's just the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or maybe it's that I'm their new target penetration market--but I feel like I've been reading about and seeing their beer every time I take a left turn these days.
May I speculate fancily? It seems to me that the rise of the independent brewery is somewhat akin to the Protestants splitting off the Catholics. It gets hard to say if new movements destroy the old movements (anti-tessellation), or if new movement further sub-divide the old, a sort of hyper-tessellation.
Anyhow, I picked up a twack of Millstream the other day, and I was delighted by this label:
|Good beer & an interesting label|
Good beer & a good label! Let's talk about the label.
Let's Talk About the Label
I was startled to see mountains. And a mill. In Iowa. But damned if Google don't have Iowa mountains and Iowa mills, so pardon my ignorance. Quite frankly, every time I talk to anyone about Iowa, I leave the conversation with two thoughts:
- Iowa's a much better place that I imagined.
- I'm sometimes a bit of a condescending dumbass, which is especially stupid for someone living in Minnesota (not because there's something wrong with Minnesota, but because so many dumbass condescenders direct their condensation our way).
And it contrasts, for me at least, so strongly with their coat of arms.
Granted, there is something definitely medieval feeling about a mill--but that's not what I'm trying to get at here. See, the coat of arms draws my mind immediately to feudalism, and the checkerboard pattern draws my mind even further into the way that feudalism tessellated the land, i.e., dividing it up like a checkerboard for the ruling class.
Meanwhile, the image of the U.S. plains with the mountains in the background and nary a barbed wire fence draws my mind to cowboys and the open frontier. "Open frontier." It's so cliche that it's easy to forget what it means. Even the idea of a stream-powered mill in this image might be taken as an example of someone using the land without a striking sense of ownership--I mean, the stream keeps flowing, after all, free and open for anyone down stream to use. Turner claimed (in his famous Frontier Thesis) that this frontier shaped the U.S. character, made it different from Europe.
Now this is where my thinking gets a little weirded out. I suggested that a prominent aspect of the U.S. frontier is no fences, graze the cattle where you want and don't dam up the streams--and this is started to sound rather communal, nobody owns the land, share and share alike. Too much like a European commons to be the root of the U.S. character?
So we not only have the frontier as an area that is not governed, we also have the frontier as an area that is shared by all and owned by none. (Native peoples, of course, rightfully view this quite different.) This strikes me as closer to anarchy, an idea militantly discouraged by the U.S. government--not an idea that is typically considered the expression of the U.S. character.
On top of that weirdness, we have the tessellated coat of arms mapped atop the image.
Well, what to make of these contrasts?
I bumped this by Daurde, and he pointed me to where we are in this image: according to label, Amana, IA.
Let's Talk About Amana
Amana was a religious colony founded by German Pietists. The Amanians lived communially up until the the 1930s. They cooked and ate in communal kitchens and labored in jobs that were rewarded in credits for Amanian goods and services.
How'd they end up in Iowa? The group started in Germany/Switzerland. They splintered off the Lutherans--depending on your point of view they either tried to bust up the tessellation of Christianity, or they were hyper-tessellators. Anyhow, they fled religious and governmental persecution in Europe and went to the U.S. In the U.S., they initially settled near Buffalo, NY, but eventually found the area too crowded, bringing too many worldly attractions too close to hand and also making it too expensive to expand as their membership flourished.
So, in the 1850s, they fled to the frontiers of Iowa and settled into a new commune.
Let's Tie it Together
We have an image invoking a communal and government-free frontier. We also have the historical site of a commune settling on to the frontier as part of an escape from official prosecution and from worldly trappings.
But what to make of that coat of arms in the image? It creates a sense of dissonance in the image. Likewise, Amana, a commune, is dissonantly placed on the frontier.
In 1923, under economic and internal social stresses, the Armanian Elders (yes, they actually had Elders with a capital "E") met to vote on disbanding the commune. They ended up with a peculiar half-disbanding, expressed by Wikipedia as:
The Amana Society, Inc., corporate heir to the land and economic assets of communal Amana, continues to own and manage some 26,000 acres (105 km²) of farm, pasture and forest land. Agriculture remains an important economic base today just as it was in communal times. Because the land was not divided up with the end of communalism, the landscape of Amana still reflects its communal heritage.Is the Amana Society, Inc. the feudal shield stamped atop Iowan frontier?
"Nah," is what I'm totally thinking to myself, "they just drew a pretty picture of the hometown and thought a cool looking knight's shield would be nice, kind of awesome, touch."
Could be--I might be right on that point.
Let's Have Another Beer
On the other hand, I grabbed another Millstream beer from my mixed twak tonight. Get a load of the label on this puppy.
|Another good beer and another interesting label|
For Pete's sake: Why the tessellating checkerboard blanket tossed across the very image of openness?
Let's grab another beer.
|Yet another good beer with an interesting label!|
Okay, so for serious foax. I know your thinking I saw all these labels before I wrote any of this, but really, I didn't!
As you can see:
- This label shows the mill encroached upon by a farm, the fence running through the formally open prairie, and the land across the fence is tessellated by a plow (though the buck runs free).
- Other labels show a feudal shield and a tessellated picnic blanket dropped upon the frontier.
- Amana was a commune dropped on the frontier.
- The Amana Society, Inc., dropped a corporate heir upon the land and economy of communal Amana, but the land was not divided.