Later: OK, there were 39 comments over there to the top of the fourth inning, including lots by me - but let's review Stan's five questions to see if I am still happy with the answers:
Stan: Is Alan serious?
Answer: I am serious in the singular. People talk of “the craft beer community” but there is no such entity. There may be groups of clubs or pubs or even districts of towns but there is no one thing. There is also no virtual thing. Wishing won’t make it so.
Update: I buy the argument that Americans may be more comfortable with "communities" but I still suspect there is a desire to make it more than it is. For me, there is a lot of yapping in a pub in there and that, indeed, is just drinking. That is not a community. Often it is a symptom.
Stan: Do people consciously build beer-centric communities or does beer end up playing a larger role in an already existing community?
Answer: Beer fans or nerds overdo the influence of good beer by about a million fold. Beer fans may make personal circles or fan clubs or populate taverns but that does not make for a beer-centric community. A community is a diverse collection of many disinterested forces which form an organic unit that serves the needs of its residents. If beer does that for you, well, that is just sad.
Update: I think Stan concurred on this one when he commented "Alan – I agree about beer fans overrating the influence of the beer they favor." I also meant that a functioning whole community can't be supported primarily through the infatuation with beer. It's a hobby.
Stan: Do the beer communities of Asheville, N.C., and Bamberg, Germany, overlap or exist in separate spheres?
Answer: as they do not exist, this question is unanswerable. It might be helpful to recall, however, that Bamberg knows little and cares less about Asheville.
Update: well, if they exist they live in separate spheres... I will give them that.
Stan: Are brewers (or breweries) and beer enthusiasts part of the same beer community?
Answer: Ditto as to existence. You may want to consider if you are part of the same “community” with those who produces products you consume. I may like the farmer and the cheese maker but they are not invited over as they are what is called a stranger or, in rare cases, people I buy things from. If I start buying other cheeses from other people, I do not stop off to the last guys to explain why. I do tell my neighbours when I am moving away. Because they are actually in my community.
Update: I like the word "scene" for this one, suggested by Zac. I was once in a scene back when I was a kid. Scenes imply no relationship or leaders. Much more open phenomena. Brewers, breweries and beer enthusiasts can all be in the same scene. But if I think a brewer sucks or the prices are too high, I complain freely. In a community I would be beholden to protect one of my own. As an anti-competitive factor, this is bad for good beer.
Stan: Are brewers (or breweries) and beer enthusiasts part of the same community? My answer to that one is brewery owners need to understand how important that is. At least at the basic community level, that being the one in which show up to help move the furniture.
Answer: you may have a community where beer fans and breweries are both present. In fact, one would home that you must have a brewery in a community. But only in rare cases (brewing mill towns a la Burton 1850) is the community defined by the breweries. Brewers can have about as much influence on a community as any other industry. I live in an military town because 8,000 of about 60,000 jobs depend on it. Lots of people drink beer here but lots of people eat bread and drive mini-vans, too.
Update: I should have been clearer. You can't have a brewery without a community. Stuff's gotta be sold.