Beer has long been declared the “every man’s drink” — without pretension, suitable for all, and easy-going. But what happens when someone other than a straight-presenting, cisgender man walks into the beer world? What does the industry look like to someone from a marginalized community? What are their experiences? And is the industry discrimination-free?
This past year saw these questions finally become a matter of public discourse rather than one held in hushed tones between the underrepresented minorities in craft beer. This important moment in beer was instigated by an Instagram post made by Brienne Allan, formerly a brewer at Notch Brewing in Massachusetts, when she posted to her personal account @ratmagnet some frustrations around how she was treated in the industry and asked others if they had experienced sexism in the industry. The result of that casual post was an opening of floodgates as women from across the industry, and across the globe, came forward to share their own experiences. We were no longer alone and the collective helped create some safety and support in the sharing. It also created a dialogue and has edged out some space for us to collectively move our industry forward to be safer and more inclusive, and to begin to truly live the values that we so commonly speak to as a standard in beer.
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Brave Noise Beer is a global collaboration that has been spearheaded by Allan along with Women of the Bevolution, with the goal of helping build a safe and discrimination-free beer industry. They invited global breweries to keep the momentum in the dialogue going and to honour those who have spoken out about their gender discrimination, racism, sexual assault, and harassment. Their intention is to bring further awareness to the issues that women, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals face in craft beer. A number of BC breweries have added their voices to this call by brewing their versions of the beer and committing to the required conditions: developing and publishing a code of conduct, making a donation to a relevant charity or non-profit organization, and making a commitment to the long-term work for inclusive and safe environments to best support staff and customers.
Gibsons’ Persephone Brewing was one of the first Canadian breweries to join in the collaboration. “This collaboration was important to us because bringing awareness to the issues within our industry is important to us,” said Sara Parsley, COO at Persephone Brewing. “We want to show our employees, as well as our larger community, our commitment to doing better, both within our own four walls and within the industry. Every voice has an impact and the more breweries that make a noise, the more change we can create.”
In Victoria, Herald Street Brew Works‘ Alex Miller has teamed up with Tessa Gabiniewicz from Land and Sea Brewing in Comox and me to brew up a three-way collab. We are working with Lee and Mike Spence of The Drake Eatery and Herald Street to host an industry-wide event at the brewery on December 11, 2021 to help progress the conversation and launch the beer.
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In Vancouver, Parallel 49 Brewing is working with Ren Navarro of Beer. Diversity. to host a 30-minute Instagram Live on November 24th to discuss the Brave Noise brew and diversity in the brewing industry. Settlement Brewing is brewing this week and looking to a holiday release of their own iteration.
Kelowna’s Jackknife Brewing released its own Brave Noise beer earlier this year. According to owner/brewer Brad Tomlinson, they were able to raise $5,500 for the local Living Positive Resource Center. Jackknife’s code of conduct is published prominently on its website, and the brewery’s front door declares it is a safe space.
Beer is a decentralized industry and exists in a bubble culture. Each brewery is its own world and is a microcosm of the ownership: brewery owners, and the managers that they hire, are the custodians of culture and gatekeepers to inclusivity. This balance of power has unspoken implications that impact the entire industry and what this means is that the actions of owners matters deeply. The opportunity to foster a culture of respect, dignity, empathy, and equality exists for each of us and is a conscious choice each and every day.
The beer industry grew so fast and, as an industry, we have spent the past number of years running to get ahead and keep our heads above water during challenging times. Sometimes, when things grow too quickly, we miss out on the opportunity to build a strong foundation and ensure proper processes and practices are enacted to reflect the culture we want to be part of. We’ve seen both the good and the bad that can come with such rapid growth.
The good news is that there is always a chance to grow, evolve, and change. And in beer, we like to look to what’s next.
Right now, there’s a need for radical vulnerability inside our industry. We need to admit past errors and be honest with what we did not know. We need to make genuine and heartfelt apologies to those who have been wronged and hurt. We need to ask for help in guiding us in the things that we may not know. We need to make a plan on how to move forward in a more equitable manner in our respective spaces, review that plan regularly, and hold ourselves accountable to change and do better, when we know more. Creating safe spaces for all means declaring our values, loudly and proudly — we should be posting them in our spaces, on social media, and declaring them daily — and ensuring that our actions defend those values. Brave Noise Beer is a step towards this.
Breweries seeking resources can start with this information published by the BC Craft Brewers Guild.
If you are looking for more information about diversity in brewing, check out this blog by Meghan Fulton.
Readers might also want to check out this article by Paul Fischer entitled “Aggressive Progress — An Inclusive New Beer Culture in British Columbia,” which features Jackknife Brewery, Strange Fellows Brewing and Townsite Brewing.
Participating BC Breweries (so far):
Already out: Persephone Brewing
November 24: Parallel 49 Brewing
December 11: Herald Street Brew Works X Land and Sea Brewing
December (firm date TBD) : Settlement Brewing
A wearer of many hats, Jake Clark is the co-founder of Nectar Imports, a boutique agency bringing natural wine and craft beer to Alberta and British Columbia, the Consumer Engagement Manager at The Strait and Narrow Pacific Coast Cocktails, and a consultant for breweries and distributors across North America. With over 20 years experience working in hospitality and craft beer, she has been a key contributor in establishing a number of successful brands across Western Canada, while working at all levels along the chain from brewery to distributor to on-premise beverage management. A trusted voice in the industry, Jake has developed and grown her own @girlnamedjake brand and has leveraged that brand to advocate for diversity, inclusion, and safe spaces in craft beer (and society).