As I've been in the process of writing plans and talking to people about Thirsty Nomad, one of the most frequent questions I get is "what is steampunk?" Actually, it's usually just a quizzical look when I say, "steampunk-themed taproom," but I get what the disconnect is. Rather than just tell them to Google it, I muddle through a rough explanation. The problem is that steampunk is a lot of things, and it seems like every artist, writer, and cosplayer has their own take.
What follows is an attempt at coalescing my thoughts around what steampunk means to me and why it works for the Nomad. If you want an internet-semi-official version of steampunk, check Wikipedia.
In my experience, steampunk usually manifests as alternate history 19th century England where steam technology reigns. I say 19th century England, but tales - they are many - are often set in an alternate history, fantasy world, post apocalyptic present or future, or 19th century wild west America. The genre generally includes Victorian era fashion, architecture, and mannerisms mixed in with high tech powered by steam and springs. And badass, sexy ladies in corsets. Always a good thing, IMO.
I wouldn't say I'm a steampunk expert, or that I'm necessarily in that culture. I've read some literature, listened to some music, and I've got a cool top hat with goggles. I tend to dabble. I take the things that resonate with me and incorporate them into my own idiom. I'm a wanderer. I expect most people do that to one degree or another.
Steampunk culture appeals to me on a few levels. In most of the literature, there's a spirit of adventure. For Western civilization, the 19th century was a time of expansion and exploration. Steampunk exemplifies this spirit. The admittedly romanticized concept of a nomad - the world wise traveler, perhaps a little hardened by experience and hardship, guardian of both tradition and reason - fits well with this aspect of the genre.
It only takes one glimpse of steampunk cosplayers or a painting to note a distinct surplus of gadgetry. Underlying all those wonderful toys is a love technology and science. The Victorian Age was a child of the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. If you've ever gone on a brewery tour, you may have noticed all the pipes, steel, and fancy gadgets. And most of the bigger systems are steam heated.
A little secret - that's my favorite part of brewing: playing with the toys. My home brewery almost looks like some kind of mad scientist's experiment - the one barrel system even more so. I like building, tinkering, and repairing when it comes to it. I haven't specifically asked, but I bet many craft brewers enjoy that aspect, as well.
This is where the feels come out, so grab your hankie. Underlying this sense of adventure and dedication to reason is a feeling of hope. The key human hope that ties us all together, I think. The hope for a better future. Why adventure if it's just more of the same? Why think and invent if not to make a better tomorrow? Why start a new project... maybe a business.... a brewery, for example... if you don't have hope that you might just make someone's life just a touch better, and add a little bit more love into the universe?
Cheesy, I know. But there it is, dear reader. Deep down, I'm a damn hippie. A hippie with a top hat that knows how to brew some pretty good suds.