It’s long been a stereotype that a typical craft-beer drinker looks a lot like me — white, male, and bearded. But spend any time at a local brew festival (pre-pandemic), and you’ll know that is an inaccurate representation of San Diego’s beer scene as a whole.
While there are plenty of enthusiasts who match my physical description, a love of craft beer isn’t restricted by race, gender or sexuality.
Yet often, the stereotype does apply when it comes to working in the brewing industry. The most widely cited statistic is from the Brewer’s Association Industry Report 2019, which states that just over 76% of brewery workers are Caucasian. This percentage is even higher among brewers themselves at 89%.
However, concerted efforts to expand the diversity within the industry are being implemented to begin leveling the playing field right here in San Diego County.
Ballast Point Brewing, in partnership with the University of California-San Diego (UCSD), is launching its annual Brewing For Diversity Scholarship to “grant underrepresented students with the funds and tools they need to participate successfully in UCSD Extension’s Brewing Certificate Program.”
The scholarship includes full tuition funding and an internship at Ballast Point Brewing. Recipients are selected by representatives from Ballast Point, UCSD and San Diego Brewers Guild Inclusion Committee.
The Michael James Jackson Foundation (TMJJF) is another grant-making organization working to create opportunity with a local connection. Timothy Parker, founder and owner (with wife Dali Parker) of Chula Vista Brewing, is a member of the TMJJF board. The organization funds scholarship awards to Black, Indigenous, and persons of color within the brewing and distilling trades looking to begin or continue their industry education.
Recently, Chula Vista Brewing teamed up with Coronado Brewing to release a craft lager, “Untitled II,” with a portion of its proceeds going to help fund the TMJJF scholarship efforts, as first reported in SanDiegoBeer.news.
Nationwide, the brewing industry’s failures of inclusivity are being pointed out more often. Drinkers, brewers and brewery employees have begun to speak up when they see both injustices and opportunities.
Those indie beer voices are inspiring more efforts within the industry even at the largest brewing companies. Tenth & Blake, the craft arm of MolsonCoors, launched a new scholarship program for underrepresented students in Tennessee, Oregon and Colorado. Constellation Brands (Corona and Modelo) has pledged $100,000,000 over ten years to increase the diversity in the brewing industry.
Anheuser-Busch has partnered with the United Negro College Fund to create the Natalie Johnson Scholarship, offering 25 annual scholarships and five paid internships to advance careers in brewing for Black college students. Natalie Johnson is the first Black female brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch’s St. Louis brewery.
These are all great efforts, but more is needed. The word “annual” in the Ballast Point scholarship language stood out to me. Providing opportunities over the long term is an important component to creating a more diverse industry.
It’s important for industry leaders to continue expanding these efforts and to respond to bright lights exposing the industry’s flaws.
The SD Brewer’s Guild Inclusion webpage header reads, “Diversity + Inclusion + Belonging,” but its resources and toolkits are still “Coming Soon.” That will change, and we’ll be a better community for it.
Find details on how to apply for or provide support for the Ballast Point Brewing For Diversity scholarship at www.ballastpoint.com/brewingfordiversity and The Michael James Jackson Foundation at www.themjf.org/.
Watch this video to learn more:
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