Being part of a specified group or subgroup (whether verbalized or not) and categorizing a beer in the same cultural construct shifts depending on the situation and place. This means that shifts to accommodate the contextual norm.
Guinness is a marvelous example of a company doing this. The brand taps into that sense of shared meaning with their customers by living the ideals they represent and displaying the consistency between experience and message through their advertising and company practices. A good brand in an extension of the target audience, it is not a logo, a catch phrase, or a mission statement. The audience and the brand become inseparable. Rather than being a purely transactional engagement, the consumer and the company, the brand, become part of a shared interaction. Or look at the new Sapporo ads in Canada (http://www.sapporobeer.ca/index.php). Visually stunning, yes, but they also represent a visual and auditory mythology around production, exoticism and beauty. They don’t talk about flavor because it’s assumed the drinker is already in the know.
So what does that mean for someone selling beer? It means fundamentally rethinking the way you talk about it. Beer is more than a commodity. It is an extension of a way of life, a symbol that is adapted to the needs of a given group in a given setting. That means going well beyond the 30-second ad and incorporating a brand into the daily or seasonal rituals people have established around various types of social activity. It means understanding the rituals themselves, why they matter and how they manifest themselves.