Posted on June 10, 2021

The Brewing Industry Is Facing a Social Reckoning

Yelena Dzhanova, Business Insider, June 7, 2021

After Brienne Allan, a brewer with Notch Brewing in Massachusetts, encouraged women on Instagram to share inappropriate conversations or experiences they’ve been a part of while on the jobshe received more than 800 responses.


But sexist and misogynistic remarks only scratch the surface of the allegations. Many individuals came forward with stories of racism and discrimination.

Women brewers and Black brewers who spoke to Insider detailed the ways they’re fighting against a culture that frequently conflates beer with masculinity. {snip}


For decades, scholars have studied whiteness as a way to define the modern beer industry. The “bearded white man” has, for many, become a trope in beer, according to race and sociology scholars Nathaniel Chapman and David Brunsma, who examined race in beer consumption today.

“Beer, particularly craft beer, seems fundamentally brewed by, owned by, catered to, distributed by (and to), invested in by, advertised to, bought by, discussed by, and consumed by white men,” Natheniel Chapman and David Brunsma write in “Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It.”

While there’s been more attention paid to discrimination within the craft beer market, racism within the industry is nothing new.

Celeste Beatty, for example, has spent decades proving herself in the brewing industry.

Beatty, a Black brewer who owns the Harlem Brewing company, told Insider her interest in beer has often been discounted. Despite having owned the thriving Harlem Brewing Company since 2000, white male brewers sometimes question her dedication to the craft.

When Beatty would try to market the beer she produced at Harlem Brewing Co., for example, retailers sometimes turn her away without giving specific reasons why.


Other times, retailers would recommend that Beatty try to sell her beer in “impoverished neighborhoods,” she said.


She added that one of the reasons there are few Black people in the industry is because they have been deprived of the opportunity to acquire generational wealth.

“When enslaved people came here, they knew how to brew beer, but they weren’t allowed to develop those talents and insights by opening a brewery,” Beatty said. Europeans on the other hand, were able to create business industries and grow their expertise and finances from generation to generation.


Studies from the National Urban League, a civil-rights organization dedicated to achieving economic and social justice for Black Americans, consistently found that Black people are not employed at the same rates as white people. Historically, that’s extended to breweries as well.

In 1950, for example, about 1% of all employees in a Detroit brewery were Black. About a decade later, that percentage stayed the same in Detroit, despite the Black population in the city growing from 16.9% to 28.9% over the same time period, according to historian Thomas Sugrue.


“If people of color is 1% of the brewing industry, you can only imagine how many women of color are actually in the field,” said Chris Gandsy of Dale View Biscuits & Beer in New York.


Miller Brewing in 1994 paid out a $2.7 million settlement to nearly 100 former Black employees following a class-action lawsuit with a federal court alleging racial harassment. As part of the agreement, the company did not have to admit any wrongdoing, but vowed to correct its corporate culture.

By 2020, the renamed Molson-Coors began to once again face accusations of an internal culture of racism after a gunman shot and killed five colleagues at its Milwaukee brewery. The police haven’t yet identified a motive. But other brewery workers have said they’ve heard colleagues say the n-word to the gunman, and he once found a noose in his locker at work.

While progress appears to have been slow for the commercial industry, craft brewers are pushing ahead to make meaningful change.


Gandsy of Dale View Biscuits & Beer names his beers after prominent civil-rights figures, including one of Dale View’s most popular: the Diane Nash IPA named after the Freedom Rider who led mass sit-ins in segregated restaurants throughout Nashville.

The idea is to make lesser-known figures who fought for civil rights more familiar and expose people to culture and history that’s often glossed over in school. He noted it also exposes more Black people to beer and creates opportunities to diversify the industry.