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The Stunning Lack of Diversity in Craft Brewing

Craft beer is the biggest it's ever been, with incredible stylistic diversity and a wealth of fascinating flavors and aromas available to be discovered. With that in mind, why is that same diversity not represented among those who actually make the beer?

Let’s begin with a test. It’s one that Grace Weitz, marketing manager at Hop Culture and founder of the Beers With(out) Beards festival, likes to put forward to as many craft beer drinkers as she can.

Close your eyes and think of the last beer you drank or grab one now and follow along. What are its characteristics? How does it taste, smell, feel? Now, with eyes still closed, try to imagine what the person who might have made this beer looks like.

“Do they appear short? Tall? Big? Small? Blond hair and blue eyes?” asks Weitz. “I’d wager nine times out of 10, your average craft beer drinker pictures a burly man with a robust beard.”

This simple experiment illustrates what she says is a significant barrier for many women seeking to enter and succeed in the industry.

“People’s perceptions of how a brewer should look set women back a few feet,” says Weitz. “Let me be clear, everyone puts hard work into this industry – both male and female brewers –  but out front in the public eye, women need to exert twice the amount of effort to establish themselves.”

This bias, whether implicit or explicit, is not just limited to women in brewing. It’s also about the lack of diversity across the board – in brewing, distributing, marketing, writing about and selling craft beer – when it comes to race/ethnicity, able-bodied/disabled, age, and other (including unperceived) identifiers.



“People’s perceptions of how a brewer should look set women back a few feet,” says Grace Weitz, founder of the Beers With(out) Beards festival. “Let me be clear, everyone puts hard work into this industry – both male and female brewers –  but out front in the public eye, women need to exert twice the amount of effort to establish themselves.”


What the Numbers Reveal

There is a wealth of data available about the beer industry, thanks to organizations like the Brewers AssociationBeer Marketer’s Insights, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and others.

This data shows how much beer was made, where it was sold, what beer styles did well last quarter, and, to a fairly detailed degree, who consumed it. This is valuable information for anyone in the brewing industry, but what is close to nonexistent is hard data about who made that beer.

What data the industry does have can help make a case for collecting what’s missing. For example, in 2016 the Brewers Association published highlights from a U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR survey of more than 10,000 consumers showing that more millennials, women and Hispanics are enjoying craft beer. At that time, 25 percent of women identified as weekly craft beer drinkers and 21 percent of Hispanics were weekly craft beer drinkers.

The Brewers Association updated its findings in June 2018 with a report by Nielsen Harris on Demand that states the number of women who drink craft “at least several times a year” rose to 31.5 percent, equaling about 6.6 million “new” women drinkers since 2015 (the report equates drinking several times a year to several times a month).

In fact, women are actually a majority of craft drinkers in a handful of cities according to the same Nielsen report. At the top of the list is Portland, Oregon, with 52.7 percent of craft beer drinkers being women; Providence, Rhode Island, is nearly identical with 52.6 percent.

The 2018 findings also showed that minority craft drinkers are increasing ‒ but only because the total population of craft drinkers is growing, not as a percentage.

Lopez Negrete Communications, a Houston-based Hispanic marketing firm, released a study in 2017 showing 49 percent of adult Hispanics drink beer. While there is a preference shown toward import beers, the data indicated that 54 percent of Hispanics would drink craft beer if they knew more about it.

“The way to crack that market,” says Gerry Loredo, who helped lead the study, involves “the places where younger Hispanics can participate in the process. If we were to do a 2.0 version of our study, we would look specifically at how many Hispanics own and run craft breweries.”

Loredo is eagerly awaiting the latest data to be released that would give him a foundation for his updated study. That information comes through the Economic Census, which is completed every five years. The 2017 Census data is has not yet been released, so all there is to look at is data from 2012, which showed that of the 1,034 breweries (NAICS Code 312120) who responded to the Census, two were owned by African-Americans, 15 by Hispanics, 36 by Asians and 972 by Whites.

On a national scale, Hispanics are projected to account for nearly 20 percent of workers in the U.S. by 2024, up from 9 percent in 1994, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s not that hard to identify who drinks craft beer, and it’s clear that the demographics are shifting. The real question is, where is diversity represented throughout all other areas of the craft beer industry – especially among those who actually produce the beer?

One report from 2014 is among the most frequently cited dataset that covers women in brewing. The Auburn University study showed 29 percent of brewery workers were female and only 17 percent of breweries (349 at the time) had female CEOs. Of those breweries, only 3 percent (67), had a solo female CEO. The rest were co-CEOs with a male, such as a husband/wife team. Only 4 percent of breweries (76) had a female head brewer, and only 2 percent (38) had exclusively female brewers.

In that very small percentage of breweries run by women is Bev Armstrong, founder of Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer. When she opened her brewery in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 2016, it was the first female-owned brewery in the state, the first brewery owned by an African-American in the state, and only the second brewery owned by an African-American female in the United States (the first was Harlem Brewing Co. founded by Celeste Beatty in New York in 2000).

“There is an obvious lack of diversity in the beer industry across the many ways that you can define diversity,” says Armstrong. “Some beer companies care and are finding ways to fix it. Some beer companies care, but don’t know how to fix it. Many other beer companies don’t care.”



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Comments

hops27's picture
No one has ever stopped women from brewing beer. You just never did it. Now that it is very popular you want to have the lions share. What is wrong with you people. There is enough whinning in the world.
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Hi hops27, This article does not fully focus on women in the brewing sector but rather poorly represented minorities in the brewing industry of all stripes, and this piece aims to be a well-thought out statement of facts about the lack of diversity in general among craft brewers.
Hallux Valgus's picture
Really..........., really!? DRINKING craft beer has nothing to do with diversity. Taking statistics and cocking your head so someone can come up with a politically correct blaming/shaming article is ridiculous. Anyone with a bathtub, stove, and bottles can brew beer. If you're trying to start you're own brewery/tasting room or distribution network for your beer, then you're an entrepreneur. The public will decide your fate. To insinuate the micro brewing world is out of sink due to the lack of diversity does not make any sense. I really doubt 2 people out of 1000 care whether their brewery's CEO or Brewmaster is in a minority class or not. What the vast majority of micro beer drinks desire is good tasting beer. Please leave the political correctness out of your publication.
blazindealz's picture
Whaaaaaaa……..there's a lack of diversity in a lot of things.....the NBA, NFL, whatever......don't force things.....that's part of the problem. Kudos to Hallux Valgus comment. Point on and couldn't say it better!
sleffler27's picture
An article exploring how diversity (even a tightly defined diversity) impacts the product, culture, and community would be very interesting. Simply commenting that there is a lack of diversity seems to fall short of the value diversity might provide. Furthermore... Are there demographics who are being discriminated against, or is this just a statistical discrepancy/anomaly in the brewing industry? Is there some barrier blocking diversity in the industry? Is the lack of diversity a problem, or a curiosity? Maybe these are seeds for a follow-up article, which might enlighten the conversation.
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Thank you all for your comments. We seek to cover all avenues of the craft brewing industry, from the finished product to the people who make it and the lack of diversity therein. This is definitely a huge concern in the industry, and one single story cannot contain its entire ins and outs. Overall, this story is meant to be a well-thought out statement of facts about the lack of diversity in general among craft brewers.

Comments

hops27's picture
No one has ever stopped women from brewing beer. You just never did it. Now that it is very popular you want to have the lions share. What is wrong with you people. There is enough whinning in the world.
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Hi hops27, This article does not fully focus on women in the brewing sector but rather poorly represented minorities in the brewing industry of all stripes, and this piece aims to be a well-thought out statement of facts about the lack of diversity in general among craft brewers.
Hallux Valgus's picture
Really..........., really!? DRINKING craft beer has nothing to do with diversity. Taking statistics and cocking your head so someone can come up with a politically correct blaming/shaming article is ridiculous. Anyone with a bathtub, stove, and bottles can brew beer. If you're trying to start you're own brewery/tasting room or distribution network for your beer, then you're an entrepreneur. The public will decide your fate. To insinuate the micro brewing world is out of sink due to the lack of diversity does not make any sense. I really doubt 2 people out of 1000 care whether their brewery's CEO or Brewmaster is in a minority class or not. What the vast majority of micro beer drinks desire is good tasting beer. Please leave the political correctness out of your publication.
blazindealz's picture
Whaaaaaaa……..there's a lack of diversity in a lot of things.....the NBA, NFL, whatever......don't force things.....that's part of the problem. Kudos to Hallux Valgus comment. Point on and couldn't say it better!
sleffler27's picture
An article exploring how diversity (even a tightly defined diversity) impacts the product, culture, and community would be very interesting. Simply commenting that there is a lack of diversity seems to fall short of the value diversity might provide. Furthermore... Are there demographics who are being discriminated against, or is this just a statistical discrepancy/anomaly in the brewing industry? Is there some barrier blocking diversity in the industry? Is the lack of diversity a problem, or a curiosity? Maybe these are seeds for a follow-up article, which might enlighten the conversation.
Editorial Dept.'s picture
Thank you all for your comments. We seek to cover all avenues of the craft brewing industry, from the finished product to the people who make it and the lack of diversity therein. This is definitely a huge concern in the industry, and one single story cannot contain its entire ins and outs. Overall, this story is meant to be a well-thought out statement of facts about the lack of diversity in general among craft brewers.

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