Crafting a More Diverse Beer Industry

Crafted Conversations, an event that aimed to promote diversity in the craft beer industry, was recently held at Bond Brothers Beer Co. in Cary.

Even with craft beer thriving in North Carolina, the process of creating tasty fermented beverages has not been an inclusive industry.

Crafted Conversations, a day of brewing and networking, held recently at Cary’s Bond Brothers Beer Company aimed to change that. The event, held Aug. 10, introduced nearly two dozen Black community members to making beer, a field that is overwhelmingly white and male.

“When you think of craft beer, you generally think of a white, bearded male,” said Bond Brothers Fun Coordinator Laura Eischen, who organized the event. “And there’s been a question of a lack of diversity in the craft beer industry for quite a while. But there’s been a lot of discussions and very little action to remedy the situation.”

Phil Jackson gets some hands-on brewing experience at the Crafted Conversations event, held recently at Bond Brothers Beer Company in Cary.

North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the South, according to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild. But only two, out of more than 320 breweries and brewpubs in the state, are Black-owned.

After discussions at the RDU Chapter of the Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women in craft brewing, members decided to address the industry’s diversity problem head on. The Crafted Conversations event was an opportunity to help change those demographics, even though COVID-19 restricted the number of attendees to 20 people.

“The idea was to share our love and passion for craft beer with people who are less familiar with beer,” said Eischen, who is on the chapter’s leadership team.

Tamara Stephenson, a Raleigh resident and co-founder of the nonprofit Jog For Good Foundation, said she is interested in learning more about beer-making after participating. While she enjoys consuming beer, she said she had never made it before.

“It was pretty cool,” she said. “When I was walking in, I thought it was going to be more difficult than it really was.”

At the end of the day, the group had produced a 10-barrel American wheat beer, which they named Crafted Conversations. The group plans to meet again in about two weeks to taste the finished product.

Outside of being a fun experience, Stephenson said Crafted Conversations addressed an important issue the country is facing.

“I think it relates perfectly with what’s going on today with Black Lives Matter, because there’s so much segregation that has happened that’s contributing to all of this implicit bias (and) that’s creating this racial divide,” Stephenson said. “So if you can get more people of color represented in craft beer, then you can kind of get rid of that bias that Black people don’t drink beer.”

Eischen says the Pink Boots Society plans to hold Crafted Conversations at Bond Brothers again next summer. Her hope is that, in the meantime, other breweries will host their own events and foster further inclusiveness in the local beer community.

“I would hope that it would be replicated by other breweries and that the more people that do it, the more it spreads,” she said.

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