How the Brewers Association Is Investing in Diversity

March 04, 2020

By October Staff, March 04, 2020

According to data compiled by Nielsen in May 2019, craft beer’s demographics are slowly shifting: more consumers are now drinking beer than in recent years, and of those consumers, more of them identify as women. The most typical craft beer drinker, however, remains a young, middle-class male. Craft consumers are also still overwhelmingly white.

Clearly, the work must continue for craft beer to successfully tackle its diversity problem. As Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the Brewers Association’s first Diversity Ambassador, told October last year, “A lot of folks just want a ‘to-do’ list that will result in greater diversity, but that list has to be thoughtfully developed with careful attention to—and hopefully collaboration with—the communities involved.”

One of the most direct ways the gatekeepers of the industry can connect with communities that craft beer has historically ignored or marginalized is with financial support. To wit, last year the Brewers Association awarded grants totaling $20,000 to six events around the country that “promote and foster a diverse and inclusive craft beer community.” Grant recipients included Fresh Fest Beer Fest (the first Black craft beer festival), Suave Fest (the first Latinx craft beer festival), and Beers With(out) Beards (Hop Culture’s series of events that promote women-led breweries and women in the beer industry). 

This year, the BA is doubling down on its efforts: The organization just announced that it has awarded 14 events a total of $50,000. Both Suave and Beers With(out) Beards appear on the 2020 recipient list once again, and women-focused events are especially well represented, with Biere de Femme, FemAle Brew Fest, Bold Women and Beer Festival, and the Dames and Dregs Beer + Festival all receiving grants.

Other recipients include ColdXela 2020, an LA-based festival featuring homebrew beers from Latinx, Asian, and African American brewers; HeART and Soul Brewfest, an arts festival serving beer from over 40 black-owned businesses in Richmond, Virginia; and Dopetoberfest, Crowns and Hops’ LA festival focusing on education and homebrewers of color. 

“It’s inspiring to see so many organizations striving to connect and welcome new people to beer and each other,” said Julia Herz, the Brewers Association’s craft beer program director, in a statement. “While there is still much work to be done, we are proud to continue our commitment to nurture a more diverse and inclusive craft beer community and we congratulate this year’s grant recipients.”

Lack of diversity won’t be solved in the beer industry or anywhere else without real work and a true desire to transform the status quo. But rather than just paying lip service to the idea of inclusivity, the BA’s decision to put its money where its mouth is signals a shift in the right direction.

Top photo by Brian Conway.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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