We aren’t looking for an Earth-changing answer.
For the second day in a row, the article I want to write about was obvious. Bryan D. Roth interviewed Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association about diversity in craft beer. This is after Roth’s series of blog posts on diversity of the lack thereof in craft beer and Herz’s more recent column on the BA website, “Embracing Diversity in the Beer Biz.”
Both the Roth series and the newest BA column by Herz are introspective first steps to addressing diversity in craft beer in that they acknowledge there is a problem and that problem will have complicated solutions.
We have seen in this last election year that there are a lot of people tired of talking about diversity of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Most of those people are white, male, and straight. That puts the Brewers Association in an interesting position of trying to promote diversity in a group that is very white, very male, and very straight. Coming up with a way to move the industry forward without angering many of your members is a tough needle to thread. But it is necessary.
Again, we are not looking for the answer that will make racism disappear forever and create a Star Trek-like diverse universe. What the people who want to see more diversity in craft beer want is first, an acknowledgment that there is a problem and second, concrete steps and actions the industry can take to begin to find solutions to those problems.
That is what annoyed so many people after reading the first of Roth’s posts earlier this year. He asked a simple question to start, basically, what is the Brewers Association doing to address diversity. The whole panel seemed ill-prepared for any questions about diversity. The answers were honestly god awful and were basically: we’ve translated our manuals into different languages, we need more data, and beer knows no race, class, or gender.
Now, with Herz’s column and then the interview it is clear that they have thought about diversity and I suspect they have concrete plans and ideas, that they haven’t made public yet, of what they want to do going forward. The one “concrete” thing mentioned was gathering more data.
Two things, first, brewers are very analytical. You must in order to make good beer. Anyone who has homebrewed has learned this lesson. So, approaching them with numbers and data on any subject is a good idea. However, second, if you have ever been to the Brewers Association website you know you can drown in the amount of data they publish. If at this point you don’t have good data on race, gender, and sexual orientation in craft beer it suggests you have simply never thought to ask the questions about diversity you need to help you make craft beer more diverse.
Here is my one suggestion for the Brewers Association: Create a committee/commission/working group on diversity and give it real power to suggest ways the BA and its members can improve diversity within the industry. Also, encourage the state guilds to create similar committees. Even better, have the state guilds create diversity committees and then have a representative from each state committee make up the national BA committee.
It has taken the whole of human existence for us to get to this point in how we treat race, gender, and sexual orientation. The Brewers Association is not going to discover the key to diversity, but it can move the beer industry a little forward in how it deals with the issue.