How the Brewers Association Is Tackling Craft Beer's Diversity Problem
Craft beer was forged out of a need for diversity. Before the craft revolution, everywhere you looked, American beer was pretty much the same: yellow and fizzy. Today, over 100 different styles flourish from hoppy IPAs to malty doppelbocks to yeast-driven lambics. So it’s ironic that, in many ways, the people who produce and appreciate these beers sometimes don’t seem that diverse at all. At beer festivals and conferences, white men (often with facial hair!) almost always make up the majority of attendees. It’s an issue the craft beer trade group the Brewers Association (BA) recognizes and has been actively trying to address—including the recent appointment of the organization’s first-ever diversity ambassador.
Obviously, plenty of women, non-whites, and non-facial-haired men also drink craft beer, but data continues to demonstrate discrepancies. For example, a 2016 report from the BA found that though the U.S. population is 51 percent female, only 25 percent of weekly craft beer drinkers were women. And the site Women in Craft Beer leads with a 2014 stat suggesting that just 29 percent of U.S. brewery workers are female. Meanwhile, though specific data on race can be hard to pin down, as recently as this past February, USA Today ran a story entitled “Craft brewers seek to involve more African-Americans.”
Realizing a need to further promote inclusivity, around this time last year, the BA established a new Diversity Committee. Then, yesterday, J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Ph.D. was named as the BA’s first Diversity Ambassador. Jackson-Beckham is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She’s known for her work studying beer and culture—including contributing an essay to last year’s book, Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimensions of Craft Beer—and, as the BA states, she “has delivered keynote addresses, presentations and guest lectures on the culture and inclusiveness of craft beer.” Plus it doesn’t hurt that she’s a homebrewer.
“Serving the Brewers Association in this capacity ‘closes the loop’ on things I have been doing for nearly a decade now. I have been fortunate enough to have successfully combined a genuine passion for craft beer and a career in academia,” Jackson-Beckham said in a statement. “I am really grateful for the opportunity to be part of authentic efforts to overcome some of the challenges I’ve spent a good amount of time researching and writing about. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to change how a lot folks in the industry think about diversity and inclusion.”
Jackson-Beckham is slated to make her first public appearance as Diversity Ambassador at next week’s Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America in Nashville.