The Path to a Better Beer Industry: Initiatives, Movements, and Organizations for Diversity and Equity

Both the importance of taking Black History Month as a reminder to stop, research, learn, and contribute, and the importance of keeping that momentum going just as strong for the other eleven months out of the year, are felt profoundly in the craft beer industry. Events of the past two years and change have focused our collective attention on the many ways that even craft beer, an industry built on its welcoming, community-minded reputation, has fallen painfully short. Only 1% of breweries in the United States are Black-owned, and this traces all the way back down to the fact that the industry has failed to make Black people and people of color feel welcome even as consumers. 

Because of that community-minded spirit, the responsibility to overhaul the entire industry and build a better, more diverse and equitable one is real. Craft beer is a powerful arena for change to take place: It inherently brings people together. It can start conversations, foster bonds, and serve as a conduit, connecting individuals with a shared mission to make sure every single person has a seat at the craft beer table, whether that’s as a consumer, a brewer, a distributor, a writer, a branding director, a maltster, or a brewery owner.

Slowly but surely, we are seeing this necessary change start to take place, and that’s thanks to dedicated, tireless, brilliant, inspiring people who care about this industry and making sure everyone feels valued in it. From mentorship programs to scholarships to individual diversity consultants, these are movements to find hope in. We are certainly on the road to a better, brighter beer world, so we want to take a moment and highlight some of the people and causes behind that forward motion. Get motivated and get involved!

 

Beer Kulture

Beer Kulture is an incredibly impactful organization with a wide reach. Best put on their website, the Beer Kulture team are “World Changers.” They partner with other causes and charity funds. They share job opportunities in beer, cider, and wine. They create educational programming. They collaborate with breweries to raise awareness and funds. They run a mentorship program in which beer, cider, and wine professionals across a big range of different careers mentor Black, African American, Hispanic, Native North American, Pacific Islander and BIPOC up-and-comers. They run scholarship programs, too, like the “This Ain’t the Beer That You’re Used To,” which helps candidates work toward Cicerone certification; the Brewery Workshop Scholarship, which sends entrepreneurs and breweries-in-planning to a workshop to help grow their businesses; and a scholarship for the University of South Florida’s Brewing Arts Program, to name a few.

Beer Kulture isn’t done there, either. They also partner with different companies, brands, and organizations to create internship opportunities for Black individuals and BIPOC, like a journalism opportunity with Hop Culture. One exciting opportunity, too, is Beer Kulture’s internship program with Bronx Brewery. This is an incredible paid internship where Black, African American, Hispanic, Native North American, Pacific Islander and other BIPOC and underrepresented communities can learn the production ropes at one of craft beer’s best breweries. They are accepting applications now, by the way!

There are tons of ways to get involved in Beer Kulture’s many initiatives. Donate here, for one. Spread the word. And if you or someone you know wants to sign up to be a mentor, or if your brewery wants to offer an internship, now is the time to spring into action.

 

The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling

This foundation was launched by brewing industry icon Garrett Oliver in the summer of 2020. Oliver, who is Black, has been the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery since 1994, and is also an author, speaker, educator, and advocate. He has spoken about his own experience with the lack of diversity in craft beer, explaining to outlets like Imbibe that whenever he would seek to fill brewing roles at Brooklyn Brewery, he was surprised by the lack of Black applicants. He started to reflect on why that was. “In the beer community, we all see ourselves as really nice, equitable and fair people, but the actual facts, the truth, is the way we’ve done things historically has produced inequities in our industry today,” Oliver told Imbibe. The brewmaster decided to work toward changing this with The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling.

Named after Michael James Jackson--considered not only the world’s greatest beer and whisky writer but also really the person who sparked what we know today as beer culture and the beer experience--this foundation seeks to provide education resources and career advancement paths for Black people, indigenous people, and people of color in brewing and distilling. It is open to people at all stages in their career, including at the very beginning, as it is meant to break down existing barriers and welcome people who previously did not feel they could access these industries. On the foundation’s website, you’ll find information about the specific scholarships, as well as examples of approved courses in brewing and distilling. You can also find there or on the foundation’s Instagram the lineup of the first round of scholarship recipients, which is super exciting. Keep an eye out for the next application period if you’re interesting in being a candidate. If you’d like to donate, you can do that on the website, too.

 

The Lovibond Project

The Lovibond Project is another organization aimed at providing education and career advancement for Black people and people of color in the craft beer industry. It is named for the scale brewers use to measure the color gradient of beer, the organization’s website says. “Like a brewer seeking to brew beer across a wide spectrum of colors, we aim to make the beer industry more inclusive of all people, irrespective of race.” The Lovibond Project seeks to build new roads to career advancement, provide new access, welcome people who have been underrepresented, and in general, work toward a much more diverse, inclusive, equitable industry.

The team behind The Lovibond Project represents breweries like Brooklyn’s DaleView Biscuits & Beer--the organization was founded by DaleView owner Christopher Gandsy along with beer industry veteran and writer Chris Inniss--as well as Fifth Hammer Brewing in Queens and Archetype Brewing Company in Asheville. The program centers around offering candidates a paid eight-week internship at different host breweries, where they will learn everything from brewing and recipe design to packaging and cellaring to sales and distribution to marketing and administration and even front of house. Keep an eye on the website for when the application period opens up, as well as how you can help support the mission.

 

Beer. Diversity.

Beer. Diversity. is the consultancy of Ren Navarro, a passionate and knowledgeable beer lover and industry veteran who works tirelessly to address the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the craft beer industry. Navarro works directly with breweries and other businesses in the industry to help them create better systems from the ground up, that go much deeper than hiring diverse candidates and bragging about it on social media to actually understanding what equity means and how it needs to be woven into every facet of hiring, policy-making, and daily operations. She does in-person and virtual consulting, and also tours her home country of Canada as well as the United States giving talks and appearing on panels.

Navarro is one of the most vital advocates in the industry today, galvanizing a movement toward an industry everyone can be proud of. If you work at a brewery that could use these services, if you want to catch one of Navarro’s talks, if you want to donate, etc., it’s all on Beer. Diversity.’s site. You can also check out her podcast, Ren Likes to Talk.

 

Crafted For All

Crafted For All is another consultancy working to overhaul the craft beverage space one business at a time, with the overall goal of instilling diversity, equity, inclusion, visibility, and representation into every level of the industry. Its principal is Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham, a.k.a. “Dr. J.” Dr. J. is one of craft beer’s premier DEI experts; she was the Brewers Association’s first Diversity Ambassador and is currently the organization’s Equity & Inclusion partner, and she is a prolific writer, speaker, educator, and consultant who has helped blaze many trails on the road to a more diverse beer scene. Along with Louis Livingston-Garcia and Alana Koenig-Busey, Dr. J. helps craft beverages build better systems, and Crafted For All facilitates the formation and growth of more inclusive communities in beer.

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