Good Beer Hunting

Brewers Association Takes Steps to Address Craft Beer’s Diversity Issue

The Brewers Association wants to better understand one of the thorniest issues plaguing the craft beer industry: diversity. In a column published online and in The New Brewer magazine, BA craft beer program director Julia Herz says, “it’s not an easy topic to navigate,” though it’s no less one that demands further examination. 

In her piece, Herz lays bare what the organization knows about the issue already, what it wants to learn, and ultimately concludes with a skeleton plan detailing the next steps. “It’s fair to want beer to represent our diverse population in an equal manner,” Herz writes. “We need to do a better job of attracting a diverse group of consumers, community employees, and owners. Always.”

The craft beer industry, and community at large for that matter, has long been bedeviled by its reputation for being overly white and overly male (I myself check both boxes—and even have a beard). There is definitive truth in this characterization. The problem, though, is that the evidence of white male hegemony in craft beer is primarily anecdotal. Or, as Herz puts it, “There isn’t a full data set to give us a proper picture of where the challenges lie.” The BA hopes to change that.  
Provided, there is ample research on the beer consumer base, and a significant amount of it points to increased interest in craft from Latino and female drinkers (and women are actually pretty well represented in leadership roles in craft beer, at least when compared to other industries, per a 2014 Stanford study). Those findings have been met with great embrace. But there is much less research as it pertains to who is actually pulling the tap handles. “We want to fix that,” Herz writes. Indeed, it’s very much the crux of what the organization wants to know. She continues: “Do you see a distinct lack of diversity (in both gender and race) in your taprooms and in your job applicants?” The answer to that would go a long way in supporting (or deconstructing) the idea that white men drink the most craft beer because white men make and sell the most of it. 
Finding the answer to that is obviously easier said than done. That’s where brewers come in. On top of promoting discussion, Herz says the BA is soon to “begin quantitative survey work on diversity within the Brewers Association membership,” to serve as “a baseline to identify future success or lack thereof for inclusive efforts throughout the craft community.” This is a good start, but the question remains: what is to be done with the quantitative research gathered by the BA? And how can those findings be leveraged to bring about change?
—Dave Eisenberg
Embracing Diversity in the Beer Biz [Brewers Association]