The phrase "diversity and inclusion" defined the national craft beer conversation in 2019. Considering the topic’s momentum, it will continue to be a major talking point in 2020 and beyond.
As with any progressive movement focused on social change, strides toward positive growth are occasionally dampened with setbacks; for example, former Founders Brewing Company diversity and inclusion director Graci Harkema resigned from her post in the wake of the Michigan-based brewery’s contentious racial discrimination lawsuit. But the fact there are even these types of positions being created in breweries and brewery organizations across the country is a sign that facing the discussion around diversity in beer is no longer an option, but a necessary inevitability.
Although the issue has previously been discussed locally in more informal formats, San Diego has now officially joined the conversation with the launch of a new Inclusion Committee, a subgroup of the San Diego Brewers Guild. The committee is headed by committee chair Virginia Morrison, who also serves as the CEO and co-founder of Second Chance Beer Company.
"It’s time to not just talk, but take action," Morrison explained at the inaugural meeting, which took place on Tuesday at Thunderhawk Alements in the Miralani Makers District. Attendees represented a diverse array of age, gender, sexual orientation, and race demographics as well as roles in the local beer industry (brewery owners to brewers and even craft beer fans).
In an effort to avoid the common committee pitfall of conversation without follow-through, Morrison and Thunderhawk co-founder Jonathan Barbarin delegated multiple action items to the seven other committee members (myself included), ranging from creating a countywide survey to advocate for employee salary transparency, identifying ways to promote inclusion in neighborhoods with few to no breweries, possibly developing an official diversity and inclusion ambassador role within the Guild in the future, and establishing guidelines to provide to breweries who wish to promote diversity in their hiring practices.
According to attendee Sue Rigler, a sales and marketing analyst for a global brewing equipment manufacturer and systems provider, it’s the craft beer community’s responsibility to proactively reach out to underrepresented demographics on both the consumer and employment side.
"We have to go out. We can’t wait for people to come to us," stated Rigler.
Megan Stone, a brewer and influencer known under her Instagram handle @isbeeracarb, agrees the time is ripe for San Diego to become a leader not just in beer quality, but beer culture. "I feel like 2020 is when we start doing something about [diversity and inclusion], not just talking about it," she noted. "Hopefully we can do something about it in San Diego."
Future meetings are yet to be scheduled but will be held at various breweries around the county, with priority towards those owned and operated by underrepresented members of the San Diego beer community. Although new committee members are welcomed, Morrison is clear: to participate requires commitment, so prepare to work. But she’s hopeful about the committee’s potential.
"I’m excited about what we could accomplish if we’re all truly dedicated and use our passions to create change."