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30. Manifesting a Better Beer Year in 2022
Everything is, uh, pretty bad, but there are people and movements to give us a spark of hope; plus taking the time for quality results with lager.
Reasons for Hope This Year, Because “It Can’t Get Any Worse” Clearly Hasn’t Been Working!
It probably won’t shock you, after issues of this newsletter alluding to or entirely focusing on holiday grievances since before Thanksgiving, that I do not care for New Year’s Eve or Day. It is a holiday of too much pressure on having some mythical bash of a good time in the face of crushing crowds, astronomical cover charges and prix fixe menus, incongruous visions of the perfect night among your companions, and these days, a wee pandemic. But! We’ve certainly had enough of my groaning, grumping, and scrooging about holidays.
While I identify as “pessimist” and take this role quite seriously, thankyouverymuch, I’ve decided to engage in one of the time-honored media traditions of a new year’s turn: a look ahead at what’s to come. But this is less about predictions and more about reasons for hope. Because one thing that struck me during 2021, a year that somehow simultaneously felt like both a monotonous slog and a chaotic tornado of shivs (the murder kind, not the Roy kind), is that there were still so many reasons for hope in the beer sphere. People and initiatives and ideas—despite my best efforts, they broke the pessimist even in me.
The outpouring of accounts from the discriminated against, abused, overlooked, and mistreated in beer has been gut-wrenching. The only silver lining to be found is that this had to happen to force many of us to stop, pay attention, and react. Amid crushing truths, exasperating stagnancy, and infuriating resistance, there have been leaders and movements galvanizing the march toward a better, more equitable beer industry. And that is fucking exciting. Read Dave Infante’s Craft Beer’s No Good, Very Bad Year for VinePair for a sobering collection of all the reasons 2021 was the industry’s worst year ever. But, as this piece ends with a similar sentiment, let’s hope that 2021 bulldozed the shit palace down, and maybe now we can work together to build a new, infinitely better one. Palace, not shit palace. Or something.
Because I hope that 2022 will be a year dominated by news of growth and positive change, let’s take a beat to talk about the people and initiatives that are something to rally around. They are what’s making me feel fired up about the year to come.
I’m using Brave Noise as an umbrella here but don’t let this downplay the staggering importance of each of these facets. The Brave Noise beer collaboration itself, the Brave Voices Fund, Brienne Allan, Ash Eliot. Brienne took the first sledgehammer to craft beer’s strong and stubborn misogyny and sexism, and has continued to push for a safe and equitable industry ever since in spite of an overwhelming and relentless force of push-back. Ash, with her platform, has not let up for a moment with her mission: to provide women and non-binary individuals with a safe space in beer, to provide them with options, to help connect them with opportunities, to assist them whether they want to fight the system or leave it behind. Together, they’ve pushed breweries to take a stand by brewing Brave Noise Pale Ale, for which breweries must create or improve upon and share their codes of conduct. Frankly, I find it maddening how few breweries have signed on (it’s currently at 183, and kudos to those breweries, but what is literally everyone else’s excuse?). But the deadline’s been pushed to March 2022. And importantly, I believe in Brienne, Ash, and their work—look at how much they’ve already accomplished in seven months, in an immediate response to huge cultural change.
Donate to the Brave Voices Fund, created by Women of the Bevolution in partnership with Brienne, Jen Blair, and Another Round Another Rally, to help women, femmes, and non-binary individuals in the alcohol industry safely leave toxic environments. If you work for a brewery that hasn’t yet signed on to brew Brave Noise, or if you know people that applies to, make some noise. Shout the mission from the rooftops.
For anyone paying attention the past few years, Ren Navarro is a spark of hope in the gray blob of an industry that has cared far too little about diversity and equity for far too long. Through her consulting and education firm Beer. Diversity., Ren gives talks about and consults breweries on how to truly, effectively, sustainably improve their diversity, equity, inclusion, and safety. Ren is not here for the breweries who want to paint a pretty picture of representation on their social feeds. She is here to rally for systemic change. Ren is a delight of a human being—see her podcast—and is a source of honesty we need badly in this scene.
2021 was a busy year for Ren. On top of her regular speaking, educating, and consulting, she launched a mentorship program for BIPOC people called Do Better. Be Better and joined the Brave Noise effort, just to name a couple of initiatives. While we need a lot more people willing to hold the beer industry accountable like Ren, with her in the scene, I feel hopeful for what this industry can become with a little elbow grease.
Scholarships, Internships, & Mentorships
One of the most vital movements in rebuilding a craft beer industry that is inclusive and equitable, I think, is the growing number of scholarships, internships, and mentorships. I hope we all remember to throw all our weight into supporting these initiatives this year (and forever) in terms of donations, word-spreading, and resource-sharing. Look, it shouldn’t have come to this. The overwhelming white male-ness of this industry is built on decades of craft beer failing to speak to and make welcome, well, anyone else, really. As drinkers, and so therefore obviously as professionals. It’s a problem that in many (most?) cases, it is left to people from the very groups craft beer has excluded to take on the responsibility of forging paths of entry for underrepresented individuals. But, I feel inspired by these people and their initiatives. And I really hope that they inspire more people to follow suit.
Beer Kulture is obviously a leader on this front (as well as many other fronts). Currently, they are accepting applications for three scholarships with ANXO and the American Cider Association, for training and exam materials for both levels of the ACA Certified Cider Professional program, along with relevant webinars and event access. As with all of Beer Kulture’s scholarships, this is crucial access for BIPOC individuals, access that is wrongfully hard to come by. Beer Kulture also runs a mentorship program that spans different job types within the beverage space, and they facilitate (paid!) internships like this one with Bronx Brewery.
There’s the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling, which works to provide education and career advancement in both of those fields for BIPOC. These grants are open to people at all different career stages—the next application period hasn’t opened, but keep an eye out. The Pink Boots Society has long offered women in beer scholarships for education at all levels, from more formal schooling to convention access to study trips. Of note right now, they are accepting applications for a Diversity in Brewing scholarship with Yuengling. Brooklyn’s DaleView Biscuits & Beer has been pushing for opportunity in craft beer for BIPOC ever since it opened. Founder Chris Gandsy has worked with fellow industry members like Christopher Inniss to brew special beers which help fund plans for internship and education opportunities. Really, and excitingly, you never know where huge, monumental movements will spring up next—just look at Eugenia Brown, who last year helped 100 Black women and women of color become Cicerone-certified in order to access better beer career opportunities with her Road to 100 initiative. If I’m missing any current initiatives, let me know in the comments!
Beer Writing and Reporting
Maybe I’m partial, but one of the aspects of the craft beer world I find the most exciting and inspiring is the writing and reporting. More recently, we have seen a swell in dedicated, brilliant writers providing much more diverse and nuanced insight, covering more diverse and nuanced stories. They’ve been unafraid of inconvenient truths and have been the vital connection between inside-baseball beer and consumers. Beer writers in all of their distinctive voices are an important and impactful representation of the infinitely different kinds of people, from different backgrounds, that end up gravitating toward craft beer. They have the power to help further grow such visibility and inclusion in the scene, and they take that responsibility seriously.
Think about how different beer journalism was even a few years ago. I don’t think any of us here would call it trivial—far from it, this has been a growing facet of the economy and culture for decades. But in the last couple of years, beer reporting has had to grow to discuss much bigger-picture, urgent stories. Beer reporting is now woven into the greater conversations of racism, sexism, homophobia, woeful shortcomings in DEI, climate change, public health, and disparity, toxicity, and lack of safety in the workplace.
I don’t know where we’d be without the reporting of Beth Demmon and Kate Bernot, who have been unfurling the story of craft beer’s dire sexism and workplace inequity problem, with sensitivity toward the victims and accusers at the center. We need the poignant honesty, drive for change, and contagious enthusiasm of Ruvani de Silva. The valuable context of history from Brian Alberts and Jamaal Lemon. The understanding of a changing business and its intersections with other industries from Bryan Roth and Dave Infante. The transportive words capturing people, places, and moments from Matthew Curtis. The thoughtful insight and attention paid to the real human beings behind the beer from Holly Regan. I’ll stop there only because I don’t want to imply that this is anywhere near an exhaustive list. It’s not! There are so many writers out there I turn to constantly and who I think can and will help take this industry to a better place. Please, add anyone else you love in the comments! And, make sure to pay attention to sites like Good Beer Hunting, VinePair, and Pellicle Magazine, plus newsletters like Beth’s Prohibitchin’ and Dave’s Fingers.
This week, we’ve got the Seven of Pentacles.
Pentacles speaks to money, property, and achievement. This card in particular speaks to investing in the future and thinking about the long term, working toward lasting and positive results, and persevering on that path.
This card signals that you should take a beat, pull back to a bird’s-eye view of your life, and assess. Pat yourself on the back for progress made so far, and think about what kind of future you want and how to get there. What’s just a distraction, a waste of time? What will actually get you where you want to be? How can you invest in yourself? If you haven’t already, and especially with the fresh start of a new year, this is a great time to stop doing what you think you should be doing, and definitely what other people say you should be doing. Focus on what you actually want and invest in that. And once you’ve figured out the path, don’t cut corners. Even if that path feels long, think about how freaking glorious it will feel to reach your destination. Make it good, make it count.
This has me thinking about lagers, hbu? Committing to a longer, perhaps harder path because you know it will be so damned worth it in the end? Striving to put your all into the process, looking forward to enjoying the fruits of your labor? A lager prioritizes long-term thinking and quality over instant gratification. It means a brewery has dedicated precious tank space where it could have turned out at least three different ales in the same time. The possibilities are endless, so I’ll leave this one open: go drink your favorite lager, whether it’s a crispy pilsner or a roasty schwarzbier, and appreciate the time it took for it to get there.
This Week’s Boozy Reading Rec
I know I linked to it above, but I think Dave Infante’s Craft Beer’s No Good, Very Bad Year for VinePair is essential reading this week. Read, remember, and reflect on just how impactfully horrendous events of this year were in craft beer. We study history so we don’t repeat it, right? (That’s why a lot of right-wingers are afraid of it!) The better we understand all that is fundamentally wrong with this industry and this scene, even as consumers, the better equipped we are to contribute to positive change.
Until next week, here is Darby is her new sweater at Tree House Brewing.