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The Suds Runneth Over

A crowded craft beer industry strives to reach a new audience.


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Beer Needs a Bigger Pie

Last August, the Brewers Association released its first diversity study, which confirmed what most people inside and outside the industry might have guessed: The craft beer industry isn't very diverse.

"The data show that similar to craft consumers, brewery employees are disproportionately white relative to both the general U.S. population and where breweries are located," Watson wrote in the report. "Brewers and owners are even more likely to be white than brewery employees overall."

According to the data, more than 88 percent of brewery owners in the survey were white, compared with 3.7 percent American Indian or Alaskan Natives, 2.4 percent non-white Hispanics, 1.9 percent Asians, 1 percent African-Americans, and 2.7 percent other or declined to state. Some 89 percent of brewers were white, as opposed to 4 percent Hispanics, 3 percent Natives, 0.6 percent Asians and African-Americans, and 2.9 percent other or declined to state. Production managers also skewed heavily white, at nearly 88 percent, compared with 4.9 percent Hispanics, 2 percent Natives, 1.5 percent Asians, 0.4 percent Blacks, and 3.2 percent who declined to answer.

Women didn't fare much better in the brew house. More than 92 percent of brewers, 91 percent of production managers and 86 percent of production staff were men. The split was less drastic in non-service managers and staff, at 62 percent. Service staff manager jobs were almost evenly split between men and women.

Dr. J. Jackson Beckham, the Brewers Association's first 'diversity ambassador,' described the challenge succinctly: "We need a bigger pie."

Beckham sees diversity as an economic opportunity for breweries, as well as for people who are underrepresented in the industry's workforce. "Craft beer is a nearly $80 billion industry, when you add in allied trades and the supply chain," Beckham said. "We have an industry that can provide meaningful economic and educational development opportunities for all sorts of people in all parts of the country. Eighty-five percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewery."

The jobs aren't just in the brewery. "Breweries also need accountants, marketing assistants, finance people, microbiologists, HR professionals, people who can do safety auditing," Beckham said. "These are professional organizations that have many, many roles. That's the piece that I'm really invested in and communicating about. It's not just about making beer and putting it in a can."

Diversity is first and foremost good for business, contends Beckham. "On a basic level, you're going to bring in more fans, and that's going to affect your bottom line," she said.

Diversity also can have an impact on how craft addresses future challenges. "The value of a nimble team with different types of thinkers and doers is really going to be poised to innovate," she said. "With more than 8,000 breweries in the country, differentiation is going to be how organizations find success. You're not going to do a lot of innovation coming from a group-think pattern."

Beckham stressed that diversity, equity, and inclusivity is a long-term commitment. "This is a process that's going to take a lot of time to execute intelligently and the right way," she said.

"At times you really want to be able to say, 'Look at this really rapid radical change.' But that's not how it's going to come. In five or 10 years, we'll be able to look back and go, 'Wow, we're in a vastly different place than we were then.' We'll be able to see the impact that we're making and that will be a great day."

Craft Beer with a Conscience

For many craft breweries, navigating diversity and inclusion issues will be a new experience. Not so at Temescal Brewing in Oakland, where owner Sam Gilbert has been a staunch proponent of diversity since he opened the brewery three-and-a-half years ago. "We've always had a goal of welcoming into craft beer people and communities that have been excluded from it," Gilbert said. Temescal has a production brewery in Jack London Square and a smaller brewery and taproom in the Temescal neighborhood.

"There's always been a certain amount of exclusivity in craft beer along the lines of race and gender," he said. "But more than that, as part of being a tight subculture, it's always had a certain exclusivity to it and it has often felt inaccessible to outsiders. We find ourselves constantly pushing to not just be welcoming but to actively seek out people who might find something they care about or love that we offer."

The effort to embrace customers of all genders and ethnicities begins with hiring practices. "We want to go about hiring in a way that puts some inherent value on diversity, inequity and inclusion, but also looking at our tactics to make sure that we're not unconsciously or accidentally excluding certain populations from our hiring pool," Gilbert said. "We also want to make sure that people from very different backgrounds feel welcome here and that they are part of the team and their perspectives and work styles are valued and fostered."

Gilbert believes that having a diverse staff leads naturally to more diverse customers. "The No. 1 way to have somebody feel welcome coming into a business is if they see people who look like them working at that business," he said. "If you're a person of color and you come into a business and the staff does not include anyone of color, it's likely that the customers are not like you, either. It doesn't mean that there's not a lot that the business is doing to make you feel welcome, but it's an uphill battle from there."


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