Hop Take: Founders Under Fire for Alleged Racism, Homophobia


4 minute Read

Hop Take: Founders Under Fire for Alleged Racism, Homophobia

Photo By Founders Brewing / Instagram.com

Founders Brewing is being sued for racial discrimination. Former employee Tracy Evans says he was fired as a result of an attempt to make a formal complaint to human resources regarding incidents of racist behavior, including employees using racial slurs and the alleged existence of a “white guy printer” and “black guy printer” in the Founders office. Evans, who is black, also says he was unfairly looked over for a promotion.

Founders responded by denying a majority of the allegations, including the existence of segregated printers, but it did not deny the racial slurs. Founders acknowledged Evans was one of three employees who applied for two open positions at the company, and that two white coworkers with less experience than him were hired in those positions. However, Founders denied these two coworkers were involved in the “terminable incidents” Evans alleged, which included one employee crashing his vehicle into a parked car while intoxicated, and the other exposing himself at a party.

The suit was filed Aug. 22 in U.S. District Court in Eastern Michigan. About a month later, Founders was accused on social media of being homophobic after the brewery spoke out against, then revoked, a tweet protesting the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of Bill Schuette, Michicgan’s Republican candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial race. Schuette, the state’s current attorney general, previously fought (and failed) to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan.

“Beer is nonpartisan,” Founders wrote in a tweet following the latter incident. “We love our employees’ passion for equality — and beer. It reflects what we strive for as a company. We’re into beer — not political endorsements. We’ll remain members of the @grchamber and support equality in our business & community.”

Those are nice thoughts, but something’s not adding up. Homophobia plus racism does not equal “equality.”

What Evans says is happening with Founders is absolutely unacceptable, as is the company’s dalliance with government-endorsed homophobia.

Whether we all want to admit it or not, beer is political. It serves communities, champions civil rights, and prevents global warming. Beer supports LGBTQ causes and provides spaces for those seeking communion of all stripes.

There are a lot of eyes on Founders now, including mine. If these issues are not rectified, Founders is going to lose a customer. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

The Brewers Association Hates Big Beer, Is Cool With Big Chicken

Buffalo Wild Wings doesn’t mess around when it comes to craft beer. The chicken-wing-chain-slash-sports-bar is the largest pourer of draft beer in the country and has a three-year sponsor relationship with the Brewers Association (BA). Those who attended the Great American Beer Fest this year might remember its pop-up sports bar.

Now, according to Brewbound, B-Dubbs and the BA are about to take their lovefest to the next level with even more events, such as possibly collaborating on the Craft Brewers Conference, Homebrew Con, and GABF 2019, and possibly higher-end events like Savor and Paired.

The BA cares about fueling the growth of small and independent craft breweries. I get that. I even support it! But big-brand sponsorships and the BA’s indie ethos go together like, well, the Golden Arches and the BA Independent Seal.

Arby’s bought Buffalo Wild Wings for more than $2 billion last year. That’s more than double what Constellation Brands paid for Ballast Point in 2015.

Jameson, another sponsor that stole the show at GABF this year, is owned by Pernod Ricard, one of the largest liquor companies in the world. Point is, the BA isn’t anti-chain, anti-conglomerate, or anti-mass production. It’s hardly even anti-Big Beer — ABI’s breweries still attend and pour at GABF. In fact, 10 Barrel Brewing was one of the most-medaled breweries in the competition this year.

Getting more eyes on great beer is fantastic. If free chicken and whiskey are involved, even better. But for me, the BA’s endorsement of a fast-casual chain worth billions and the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey is awfully curious. Raking in corporate chicken and whiskey money may help the BA throw great festivals for now, but sooner or later, consumers are going to catch on to the fact that big corporate sponsorships and the Independent Seal#TakeCraftBack campaign, and whatever Big Beer-bashing agenda the BA comes up with next don’t really add up.

Craft Brew Alliance Scoops Up Three More Breweries for a Cool $43 Million

Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), Portland, Ore.-based owner of Hawaii’s Kona Brewing and several other brands across the U.S., including Redhook Brewery, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Omission Brewing, and Square Mile Cider, announced on Wednesday it will acquire three more breweries: Cisco Brewers of Nantucket, Mass.; Appalachian Mountain Brewery of Charlotte, N.C.; and Wynwood Brewing of Miami, Fla.

CBA, founded in 2008 and partially owned (31.4 percent) by Anheuser-Busch, had existing partnerships with all three of its new acquisitions.

Speaking to Brewbound, CBA CEO Andy Thomas summed up the strategy perfectly: “This isn’t a time to divide and conquer. It is a time to unite and conquer.”

CBA, by the way, owns beer brands available in 50 states and 30 countries. By solidifying these relationships (read: acquiring them), CBA gets to control more beer brands in more states, and see to it that they’re distributed in a massive network.

A similar model, albeit on a smaller scale, is Canarchy, a craft brewery collective founded in 2015 funded by private equity firm Fireman Capital Partners. Canarchy includes Oskar Blues, which alone is distributing in 50 states and 17 countries; Cigar City, which recently posted 60 percent growth in production volume; along with Three Weavers, Deep Ellum, Perrin, Wasatch, and Squatters. The collective is already among the top 10 craft brewing companies in the U.S., according to the BA.

“Collective.” “Alliance.” I’m seeing a strategic, sustainable trend here. Codependence, not independence, is the future of craft brewing.

There’s a New Star at Constellation

Constellation Brands announced that Mallika Monteiro has been promoted to senior vice president and chief growth officer. In her new position, Monteiro will focus on every beverage company’s favorite word: innovation.

Monteiro, previously vice president of innovation for Constellation’s beer division, was responsible for recent launches including Corona Premier, Corona Refresca, Svedka Spiked Seltzer, and Western Standard (that last one is an American premium lager aged in High West Whiskey barrels).

Basically, this woman knows what’s trending. Corona is leading the way for Mexican imports, a category that is currently dominating. Whiskey barrel-aged adjunct lager sounds kinda gross, but both barrel-aged beers and lagers are very much in vogue. And we all know the deal with spiked seltzers: Every major beer company is making or acquiring one.

With these innovations du jour under her belt, I’m interested to see what Monteiro comes up with next. Hopefully, it won’t be another diet beer. Or, at least, not another one with “Gold” in the title.

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