Beer Twitter was ablaze this week. In a passionate and poignant blog post published Monday, Beer Kulture’s Toni Canada discussed the subjectivity of the beer community’s outrage. She compares the fiery response to last week’s misogyny in Great Lakes Brewing News, and last year’s wage- and tequila-spiked scandal at Trillium Brewing, with the comparatively lukewarm response to racism. She specifically talks about how those who heard about the case against Founders Brewing hedged, saying they were “waiting for all the facts” or “not commenting on an open case.”
In August 2018, Founders was sued for racial discrimination. Former employee Tracy Evans, who is black, says he was called the n-word by colleagues and passed over for a promotion because of his race. He creates a disturbing picture of Founders’ corporate culture, including casual references to a “black guy printer” and “white guy printer,” and says he was fired when he lodged an official human resources complaint.
The news broke publicly in October. Founders admitted to the racial slurs but denied further allegations. And that was pretty much it. The only progress on Founders’ part months later is “sensitivity training” and the appointment of a director of diversity and inclusion.
Founders is not the only one to blame here, though. The beer community is, too. The issues surrounding Great Lakes Brewing News and Trillium were (somewhat) resolved in a matter of days, thanks in large part to the whistle-blowing of the (predominantly white) beer community. Trillium raised employee wages, and Metzger resigned from his newspaper and gave up his stake in the company.
“This level of outrage isn’t applied when the issue is racism or the person offended is black,” Canada writes.
She’s right. Although the beer industry has proudly promoted diversity, inclusion, and expanding its reach in recent months, it — we — have failed.
When Evans’ lawsuit went public, I covered it in this column. I resolved from that point on to pass on covering Founders editorially, and I stopped reviewing and purchasing its beers. I thought I was an ally.
But Beer Kulture’s thought-provoking article made me see something painful: I am still part of the problem. Although I voiced my opinion and personally made those decisions, I quietly went on with my life. And because of that, I am not the ally I thought I was.
I, and the rest of my colleagues in the industry, should have spoken up, louder and clearer, about our anger toward Founders. When I interviewed brewers about their favorite session beers, I should have said something when one answered “Founders All Day IPA,” instead of silently eliminating it from my article. Instead of giving Founders beers away, I should have asked the brewery to stop sending me samples until its lawsuit was resolved and its racist past addressed.
Beer Kulture’s article showed me a mirror. I took a long, hard look. Now we all need to start taking action. What can you do to be a better ally? Start doing it. Today.
Brewers Association Announces 2019 Board
On Wednesday, the Brewers Association (BA) announced its 2019 board of directors. Three new members join the board: Leah Cheston, co-owner of Right Proper Brewing Co., brewpub representative; Jill Marilley, American Homebrewers Association (AHA) representative; and Kevin Blodger, co-founder and head brewer at Union Craft Brewing, at-large representative.
Blodger and Larry Chase, who is also the board secretary/treasurer, will replace outgoing board members Jim Koch of Boston Beer and Tom McCormick of the California Craft Brewers Association.
Left Hand Brewing co-founder and president Eric Wallace will continue as board chair for his second term.
Anheuser-Busch Doc Cries ‘Beers of Joy’
On Tuesday, Anheuser-Busch announced the March 1 debut of “Beers of Joy,” a documentary that “examines the rich history, detailed science and unique personalities of the beer world,” a press release says.
The feature-length film will follows the beer-fueled journey of four (mostly A-B-employed) industry members: Tonya Cornett, innovation brewmaster at 10 Barrel Brewing; Ryan Daley, beer educator; Joe Vogelbacher, CEO and co-founder of Sugar Creek Brewing; and Sean Z. Paxton, also known as the “homebrew chef.” The film is scheduled to debut at select theaters across the U.S., as well as on iTunes, Comcast, Spectrum, and other on-demand services.
The trailer turned me off — it literally starts with the words, “In a world,” and then leans right into beer being “a gift from God” — but I’m a beer geek at heart. I have yet to see a decent beer documentary. While I might scoff at first, let’s be honest: I’m still pretty curious to see how this one turns out.