This article is a part of our inaugural Next Wave Awards. For the full list of 2021 winners, check out the whole series here.
When it first began in 2017, Beer Kulture was a lifestyle brand that aimed to bring Black communities into craft beer spaces. By 2018, its blog and social media accounts were sharing some of the industry’s most impactful stories, including the racism lawsuit against Founders Brewing in 2018. It amassed followers across the country who felt connected to Beer Kulture’s message and mission: to create a craft beer “kulture” that includes and uplifts Black and minority members.
In 2021, under the leadership of co-founder, president, and CEO Latiesha “Tiesha” Cook, Beer Kulture transitioned into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, expanding its network of resources to include scholarships, internships, and job opportunities for BIPOC and minority industry members and rookies.
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“Essentially, what we do as a nonprofit is create opportunities for up-and-coming African- American, Black, Hispanic, [and] Latino people within the culture that we represent — scholarship opportunities, mentorship opportunities, and a job board — just to create access,” Cook told VinePair in March. “We felt like there isn’t a lot of access for people of color. Instead of just talking about the problem like we’ve been doing for many, many years, it was time to do something about it. Going nonprofit put us in a position where we could assist more people. So that’s what we do.”
Indeed, a key component of Beer Kulture’s mission is reaching beyond beverage industry insiders. Programs, like the Beer Kulture internship, not only offer paid production internships at breweries, but also aim to create authentic connections between breweries and their local communities.
Speaking on VinePair’s “EOD Drinks” Podcast earlier this year, Cook said, “We’re not tapping into people who are beer geeks or beer nerds. We’re reaching actual people who are on the block, who have no affiliation with beer, who don’t even know what’s possible with beer.”
In July, Beer Kulture announced the Sparks Foundation, a program promoting access to career opportunities for Black men and boys. The foundation is named for Darren “Sparks” Massenburg, a late friend of Cook’s. The Sparks Foundation will award four $5,000 grants per year, funded by Beer Kulture “kollaboration” partners both within and outside of beer-industry jobs. The first grant was funded by Colorado’s Primitive Beer Co. and was awarded in August.
Those of us who follow Cook and her team have watched wide-eyed as Beer Kulture has evolved over the years. From a friendly and fiery online forum to a forerunning fundraising organization, it continues to work for the betterment of breweries, distilleries, cideries, and the communities they serve.