21. Why Don't Craft Beer Consumers Seem to Care?

~Feelings~ about the segment of beer drinkers who continue to support toxic breweries; plus this week's tarot card is a darn fool.

Mad as Hell.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were out at breakfast with his mother. The conversation, as it exhaustingly seems to every time you’re with, say, family members with whom you have zilch in common, ambled into “Isn’t it insane masks are politicized?” territory. And then that took a not too unexpected turn into discussing The General State of Things (Which is Bad). And that, somehow, led to my mother-in-law opining that women seem to get too carried away these days, the way they come for men. “Is all this really necessary?”

This reminded me of a jolly Christmas dinner conversation, in which a (female) relative expressed a similar viewpoint. “When did it become a crime to flirt? Not everything has to be this huge deal, not everything is assault.”

You know they’re from a different generation—and the degree to which that’s an acceptable consideration is up for debate—but wow, does it just hit different to hear this shit from women and family.

I feel like every week I sit down to write this newsletter, I have to fight to not just write this rant. But this week, I’m just going to go ahead and surrender. I’m mad all the time about how just how little women’s safety, let alone happiness, seems to mean to the general public. To write about the extent of that, from chronicling discrimination to discussing the domestic workload divide, would obviously take volumes of books, but here and now, we’re talking craft beer consumers.

Why the fuck don’t craft beer consumers care about women—and BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ and differently abled people—getting discriminated against, abused, and assaulted just in a day’s work?

I know there are tons of thoughtful, dedicated allies among the pool of consumers. But as far as those who are not…How many more craft beer Instagram posts do we need to see addressing the industry’s sexism problem answered with hundreds of comments like, “It’s just beer!” and “Ugh, leave the politics out of it!” and “I drink what I like and they make a good IPA—that’s all I care about!”? What, truly, is happening in the brain of a person who learns that the maker of a beer they like has fostered a toxic, dangerous work environment and doesn’t care because the beer is still good? Once I fell down a rabbit hole scrolling through the comments of one of Kimberley Owen’s Tik Tok posts calling out Brew Dog and…holy hell. It’s hard to read that and even want to look at another craft beer in that moment, for fear of liking the same kind of liquid that these trolls do.

And the sheer volume of Untappd-worshipping Instagram posts amid the news that Untappd published a performative code of conduct for their recent festival and then went ahead and kept a whole entire handful of problematic breweries on the bill? This is not rhetorical: I really wonder how many of these people were fully aware of the situation? Because I’m sure a good plenty weren’t—there’s a gap between the beer industry, itself, and the beer influencer community, and I do understand a casual beer fan with a whole other career and life isn’t up on every bit of the news, but look. You have to stay a little informed on the big stuff, especially if you want to wield the “influencer” title. You’re striving to influence people, so you’re taking on the task of doing so responsibly. As far as the people who did know but could not resist posting celebratory photos at the fest, well.

The other night, I think because I was having a good day and my brain needed to end that, I got stuck in a doom scroll on a thread about the lifelong committed monster Mel Gibson is. Why was I surprised at how many people answered the laundry list of abhorrent misdeeds with “Mel Gibson is the best!” and “I love Mel Gibson”? How could I not know better by now?

Because the constant atmosphere of late seems to be not just indifference, but open hostility and resentment directed at women and members of marginalized communities: How dare they speak up? How dare they expect equity and safety? Before 2015 or so, it feels like this lurked a little deeper below the surface. Still dangerous, but not as visceral as it is now. Because the state of our government ever since, like a daily soap opera directed by Dario Argento, has empowered misogynists, racists, and bigots. They feel threateningly galvanized now. It is their right, nay, their duty to smack underrepresented people back down to size.

This is the fire power behind comedians who—justly—lose their careers after being found out for the sexual predators they are, only to be able to return and sell out venues with their “can you believe this liberal snowflake bullshit?” rhetoric. And while perhaps a different strain, it also feels like the bravado that bolsters someone like Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, who greets mounting allegations of misogyny, harassment, and unsafe workplaces within Mikkeller not with apologies and striving toward improvement, but with defiant claims that “sexism activists” are out to tear his business down. After I read Dave Infante’s fascinating piece for VinePair on conservative wine and beer brands targeted at the right, I started to wonder if some of this year’s accused brewers will ever eschew amends and betterment in favor of building new brands for drinkers who think attacking women on social media is a celebration of free speech. But perhaps I’m getting carried away.

Choosing to wave the flag of a brewery with staggering evidence against it feels political now, like proudly not wearing a mask or decrying the vaccine. And when the situation is more innocuous, like an influencer smiling with a problematic brewery’s beer? That of course doesn’t feel political, or, frankly, even malicious. But it does feel irresponsible, and I don’t even understand why or how those choices get made. Because, reminder: there are almost 9,000 breweries in the US, alone. We are absolutely spoiled in terms of options. The brewery who makes that IPA you love turns out to foster a toxic environment for employees? Oh, no, you only have 8,763 other breweries to choose from! Even if we’re actually accurate about the number of breweries you can access IRL or via shipping, come on.

I feel a near constant clash of hope and hopelessness. There are so many brilliant minds and brave voices relentlessly working toward making this industry better, and there are absolutely plenty of incredible breweries to support. But the stubbornness of so many consumers is maddening and concerning. How do we get them to give a shit? Consumers have the most power with their spending. They could have such an impact.

All I can think of right now is just to keep the conversation going. Because I do know so many people, who have nothing to do with craft beer and so don’t know all the news and updates, but who love drinking it, who have been immediately receptive upon learning about issues with certain breweries. So, whenever you’re not too utterly exhausted, keep spreading the word and steering friends and family away from the baddies and toward the breweries and brands contributing to a better industry for all.

Beer Tarot!

I pulled The Fool, because tarot has a great sense of humor, apparently.

In all actuality, though, The Fool doesn’t translate how we think it might—the tarot Fool is not some dummy, or someone still sporting Brew Dog gear in his profile pic. The tarot Fool is actually more comparable to a wee babe: they don’t know anything yet, but they’re taking it all in with wonder and enthusiasm and innocence. The Fool’s number is zero, which means “unlimited potential” here. Similar to how Death last week meant time for transition, The Fool signifies beginnings, with a side of free-spiritedness and spontaneity. You’re about to start something new. It’s time for adventure. And you don’t have to be rigidly prepared for it, either, so scrap those spreadsheets, my type-A friends. You might fall flat on your ass but you’re going to try whatever it is you’re approaching in life, and you’re going to have a hell of a ride doing it.

This instantly brought to mind fresh-hopped beers. These feel like The Fools of beer, in a very good way! Aw, the wee babe hops. They’re fresh and new and ready to gift beer with aromas that beer lovers look forward to all year, and treasure because of their fleeting availability. Drink a fresh-hopped beer while you still can—here are this year’s GABF winners for inspiration—and take an adventure with an open mind.

This Week’s Boozy Reading Rec

You would expect nothing less from the inimitable Holly Regan, but their recent piece for Craft Beer is really sticking with me. Holly wrote it through the NAGBW Diversity in Beer Writing grant they were awarded for 2021. “The Still Point of the Turning World: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome” is smart, heartfelt, and thoughtfully reported, with moving and inspiring candidness from interviewees Averie Swanson, Crystal Luxmore, and Amanda Trimm. It’s an important read always but especially now.

This Week’s Boozy Event Rec

Bonus rec here! Have you registered for the Chicago Brewseum’s Beer Culture Summit yet? It takes place Friday, November 5 to Sunday, November 7, with both in-person and virtual events. The events are so wonderfully niche and fascinating, along with some vital conversations we would all benefit to listen in on. Hear from Tara Nurin on how the Prohibition impacted women’s rights and roles; take in a cooking demo with beer pairings with April and Toni Boyce of BlaQ & Soul; learn how different countries’ tax policies influenced regional beer styles from Jen Blair and Rachael Hudson; listen to Ruvani de Silva lead on panel on both the barriers of entry and new growing potential for South Asians joining the beer world; and take notes from Beth Demmon, Ale Sharpton, Kate Bernot, and Esther Tseng on equitable reporting in craft beer. To name a few. There is so much more.

Until next week, here is Darby experiencing the first shock of a fall chill—and the coziness of your dad’s sweater—at Bright Ideas Brewing.