Hard to Swallow: Lessons Learned in Diversity and Inclusion in the Craft Beer Industry

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Members of the Mass Brewers Guild Diversity & Inclusion committee are working to further diversify the craft beer community statewide. (Mass Brewers Guild)

The craft beer industry in Massachusetts has come a long way in shifting both its consumer base and employee rosters from being a typically male demographic to one that more fully reflects the demographics of its communities, neighborhoods and the Commonwealth as a whole.

While there’s always more work to do, especially when it comes to racial diversity in the industry, Mass Brewers Guild member meeting attendees are a fifty-fifty split in gender. Women are employed in nearly every position in breweries statewide. In the past, they seemed to be heavily concentrated in the marketing, sales and front-of-house staff, but we are now starting to see more female boots on the floor in brewing, packaging and quality control.

We estimate that there are female fingerprints on nearly every beer produced in our state — whether they designed the label, formulated the recipe or helped to get that cold brew into your hands. That’s something we are really proud of.

Data from the Brewers Association shows that female consumers outpace men in Massachusetts statewide and that generationally, our craft beer drinkers are evenly split between Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.

Massachusetts breweries are teaching their taproom staff sign language to better serve the deaf community, hosting drag shows and Queer Bingo, welcoming senior centers in for tastings and tours, brewing beers to raise money for veteran causes, and building gender-neutral bathrooms and nursing rooms into their taprooms.

This fall, under the leadership of Mass Bay Brewing Co./Harpoon Brewery, and with the support of the Brewers Association, the industry will host its first “Hop Forward” Job Fair designed to bring together breweries in and around Boston with the goal of attracting employee candidates from under-represented communities. This job fair model is something the Mass Brewers Guild Diversity & Inclusion committee plans to help replicate across the state to further diversify the craft beer community statewide.

But before we pat ourselves on the back, we know there are still plenty of blind spots, and these exist not only in Massachusetts, but industrywide.

We know that nearly 80 percent of craft beer consumers in Massachusetts are white, and that there are only a handful of brewers and brewery owners of color across the state. There are beer names and artwork that objectify women, or marginalize and alienate different cultures. Instances when a Hispanic person may be the only person of color in a taproom despite the heavily populated Latino neighborhood that surrounds the brewery’s walls. Instances when a customer will ask to speak to the male bartender instead of the female for beer recommendations. Assumptions made that the man is the brewer and/or owner, and that the woman couldn’t possibly be either — let alone both.

Whenever there’s a misstep in the industry it’s an important lesson and reminder to all of us that our words, our marketing efforts and how are employees are trained carry enormous weight and significance. When they give shape and awareness to our unconscious biases we must listen intently and open our eyes and minds to change.

Craft beer is immensely creative and opens us up to new experiences and environments. It’s art. It’s science, it’s complex, it’s cool, and it’s damn tasty. It’s an ice breaker, a trendsetter, a conversation starter and something that brings people together.

Craft beer is not exclusive. Everyone and anyone can love and appreciate craft beer, learn about it and share their knowledge about it. There is no one-size-fits-all craft beer consumer, brewer, fan or influencer.

Beer has a history of bringing people together and raising our game, helping us to break down barriers and build bridges. Let’s continue to inspire one another and broaden the circle of craft beer, one pint at a time.


The Mass Brewers Guild Board of Directors & Katie Stinchon, Executive Director of the MBG

About the Mass Brewers Guild

Founded in 2007 by a group of committed and passionate brewers, the Mass Brewers Guild, is organized for the purposes of promoting craft brewing and protecting the interests of craft brewers across the Commonwealth. The association is membership-based and open to all Massachusetts breweries licensed by the federal Tax and Trade Bureau and the Commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. The nonprofit creates a community of brewers while shining light on the broad range of breweries and styles offered throughout the state. Through industry and educational events, its mobile application beer trail map, and by providing resources and marketing support to brewers, the nonprofit works to highlight Massachusetts as a top travel destination for craft beer in the U.S. The board also continues its work at the legislative level, fighting for license and franchise law reform, and serving as the voice of craft brewers on Beacon Hill. The Massachusetts Brewers Guild is a 501(c)6 not-for-profit corporation. For more information, visit MassBrewersGuild.org.

Editor’s note: The Massachusetts Brewers Guild submitted this letter in response to an article published in the Boston Globe.

CraftBeer.com is fully dedicated to small and independent U.S. breweries. We are published by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers. Stories and opinions shared on CraftBeer.com do not imply endorsement by or positions taken by the Brewers Association or its members.