Before getting into craft beer sales, I managed a bar. I spent a great deal of time probing every beer rep for more details about the beers they would bring in for a tasting. I got so into it, I stopped having them come to me and I started visiting their taprooms instead. More often than not, I was the only person there that looked like me- BLACK.
While 12.2% of the U.S. population is Black, a 2018 study by the Brewers Association found that Black people make up a median of 1.8% of brewery positions and just 1% of craft brewery owners.Black and brew: New York’s craft beer industry has a diversity problem | Will Cleveland | Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
I got to know all my local beers and breweries pretty well. I eventually left that job in search of a chance to get into the beer industry. I wanted to sell beer. Big brands and distributors kept saying I didn’t have enough industry experience. “It’s beer-,” I thought, “How hard can it be to sell?” I was denied 6 times for not having enough experience. I was ready to pack it in and go back to the bar and restaurant scene.
One day I get a call from one of my favorite reps (he always came through with the dope swag). When I answered he immediately told me he had gotten a job with a new company. He was now the Sales Manager at a brewery really close to my house. Before I could say I’m no longer with the restaurant, he tells me to check my email. He’d sent me an invitation to trivia night at his new brewery. I went to see him. We walked inside and enjoyed some really weird beers. Later I let him know that I was no longer with my previous company. Ultimately, it was a great night of laughs and really bad attempts at guessing trivia answers.
A week later I get a call from him asking if I wanted to come sell beer on his team. To which I jumped at with the quickness.
As I worked, I noticed again I was of the minority amongst my colleagues. In fact, there were only 3 black people (that I can recall) selling beer in my city at that time. I was shocked! This was 2016! When I asked the 3 other black men how they landed their beer sales jobs, they had similar stories, “Dumb luck!” It’s sad to think that every black person I knew in my industry got there by luck. No traditional path existed for us. Looking around, their weren’t very many women in craft beer either.
When I asked the 3 other black men how they landed their beer sales jobs, they had similar stories, “Dumb luck!” It’s sad to think that every black person I knew in my industry got there by luck.
That’s a crappy realization. One I don’t want anyone else to experience.
So here are 5 ways to build diversity in the craft beer industry.
1. Try a new talent pool
If your staff currently lacks a diverse appeal, don’t look in the same place for your next hire. It’s clear that your current fishing spot isn’t going to garner anything different. There are human resource networks and job search platforms dedicated to helping you find qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Check out this job board dedicated to helping you build a more diverse team.
2. Create targeted internships, scholarships, and grants
Create and offer internships and scholarships to people from underrepresented groups within craft beer and its auxiliary industries. Craft breweries need marketers, yeast scientists, chemical engineers, and your taproom will need to be led by someone with some background and education in hospitality. Each of these fields of study boasts a diverse make-up of qualified candidates that likely don’t even realize that the craft beer industry is an option for them. Contact minority organizations on colleges and ask for their help in promoting your internships and scholarships among their members.
3. Promote diversity on your careers site. If you don’t have one, get one!
I don’t necessarily look for the word diversity when I search for a job. I do take stock of the images a company puts on their site though. I figure if no one on the website looks like me, the staff probably doesn’t either. I know the graphic designer’s plight of scouring Unsplash and Canva with very little success finding diverse images for craft beer content. Consider adding some of the IRL candid images from your taproom. Ask patrons if it’s okay to use their image on your website or at the very least in the FB or IG post promoting the job your posting. If you lack diversity in your tap room, we should have a 1 on 1 contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to help you #GetSeen
This should be easy for many breweries. I’m certain you produce the occasional collab beer throughout the year. Why not collab with someone different. Reach out to a female-founded brewery or with any of the 60+ black-owned breweries in America. I’m sure that the recent 1000+ brewery collaboration for Black Is Beautiful has introduced several brands to new markets. Markets that better reflect diversity in consumers and business owners in craft beer. You can even commission a local artist to design the label for your next can release. Reach out to anyone that already captures the audience you would like to hire from. Don’t be afraid to ask your industry colleagues to share your job opportunities with their fan base.
5. You have to get out there
Your path to a more diverse workforce is likely not right outside your front door. This is a new market for you. You must go to them and invite them in.
Be[er] the Change is an initiative to unite local craft breweries with home brewers and aspiring brewery owners from underrepresented communities of the craft beer industry.Crafted Culture Brewing Company
Speak at the nearest HBCU- they have a careers team that helps students find work. Partner with the Urban League. Participate in job fairs that are centered around equity and inclusion. Get creative.
Be a guerilla in this approach. Traditional channels have not led you to a diverse workforce, so stop using them if diversity is what you truly seek. Building a diverse workforce is not something that happens on accident. I’m really happy to be working in craft beer. No matter how happy I am, I am constantly aware of being the “only one” in a room. There is likely someone on your team right now that feels the pressure of being the only woman, the only BIPOC, the only gay or trans person on your team or the “only one” in your taproom.
Make diversity a priority and a more diverse community will make you a priority as well. We know you can #CraftBeer. Now is the time to #CrafttheCulture
Live Wild. Drink Responsibly.
If you missed it, I’m a Co Founder and CEO of a brewery that is founded for the “only people” in the craft beer world. Crafted Culture Brewing Company.
“Be[er] the change you want to see in the world.”