Thursday, January 11, 2018

The fetid under-beer-belly of 'craft.'

Everybody has a diversity committee. That's the trendy thing to do,” said the big bearded white guy, one of four members of "The Brewsroom," a live Twitch-cast originating in the St. Louis, Missouri-area.

The group was grilling Michael Kiser —founder of website Good Beer Hunting— and writer Bryan D. Roth about the latter's article for the website, "I Know What Boyz Like: A Grassroots Industry Struggles to Find Leadership on Social Issues."

In his 2 January piece, Roth had examined misogyny and racism in the 'craft' beer business. The boys of The Brewsroom took great umbrage with that. They were displeased that breweries they knew had been singled-out without being given fair time to comment.

The group implied that misogyny and racism did not even exist in 'craft' beer. If women and minorities were under-represented in 'craft' beer, it was, one said, because of a deficit of unqualified minorities and women as opposed to available Siebel-trained white males. Or, even if there were unintended exclusion, why should they care? Their market is, after all, “middle-aged white men” And what was Roth, a white male, even doing making these claims, they asked.

In a tweet about his participation in the broadcast, Good Beer Hunting's Kiser wrote: “It was a challenging convo. Some good moments, some very bad. Ended with 'Buy him a brown ale for diversity.' Baby steps.

Yes, you read correctly. As the broadcast concluded, one of the group, who had just been informed that Roth would soon be visiting St. Louis for beer business, actually did say, with a smirk: “Buy him a brown ale for diversity.

And there's the problem. The boys of The Brewsroom were clear that they were there to brew and drink, and not to be social crusaders. This was a 'convo' that had fallen on deaf ears and souls, not one leavened by the kind spin that Kiser and Roth had put on it.

I don't know the members of The Brewsroom. Maybe their home turf indeed had been unfairly impugned. But the excuse that good ol' boy behavior is just good fun is an unacceptable retread.

During 'craft' beer's infancy (1965-1980) and adolescence (I of the latter), minorities and women were woefully underrepresented. We in the industry were not called out for that. How we would have responded is an open question.

But years later, well after the civil rights tumult of the later 20th century, racism and misogyny, whether overt or covert, unintended or disregarded, remain alive and unwell in segments of the 'craft' beer industry and culture. Not by everyone; not everywhere; not all the time; but present. For some, 'craft' beer has become merely the occasion to get drunk, belch, fart, and screw. Someone could write a song. But it's not funny.

As 'craft' beer makers and drinkers, it should be our duty to not allow prejudice to remain as 'craft' beer's foul flavor for our sisters and brothers, our daughters and sons. Drink on it.

  • If Roth and Kiser had merely noted that sexism and racism existed in 'craft' beer without offering examples, they probably would have been charged with unsubstantiated moralizing. But, in this case, they did cite examples, and received opprobrium for doing just that. Read the article: here.
  • Craft breweries can be very thin-skinned about criticism. For example, see this or this.
  • If you must watch The Brewsroom response, watch it at Twitch.
  • This post first appeared on YFGF's Facebook page. The comments are interesting. It's re-posted here in slightly amended form.

  • For more from YFGF:

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