Words “craft beer” conjure up thoughts of hop-heavy IPAs, tangy sours, chewy stouts, and other traditional styles done right. There is also the image of some guys with beards standing around brewing equipment in a garage. Indeed, the craft beer and emerging liquor industry did emerge from the garages and homes of company founders, but many now argue that the toxic bro culture, unfortunately, tagged along when some of these endeavors became businesses.
A Massachusetts woman named Brienne Allan set off a national discussion about misogyny in the workplace. A production manager for Notch Brewing in Salem, she took to Instagram to complain that she had two men question her work skills on the same day, her second day back after the pandemic. Her May 11 post called for other women to share stories, asking: “What sexist comments have you experienced.” More than one thousand women from around the world responded with similar stories of their own. Allan’s account went from 2,200 followers before the post to more than 50,000 after.
The response by the industry was immediate, with several brewmasters, founders, and CEOs stepping down from their positions. Others have hired outside companies to investigate complaints of sexual harassment against the brewery. Nearly every brewery cited for complaints or not has vowed to make changes to its workplace culture.
Brewers Association addresses the matter
According to a 2019 Brewers Association survey representing small independent breweries, just 7.5% of brewers are women. The service side is much higher, and there are also 37% women in non-service or production roles in breweries. It also notes that 88% of brewery owners identify as white.
The Brewer’s Association also released a statement on May 19 that condemned gender-based violence, harassment, bigotry, discrimination, or inequity. In part, it stated:
“(O)ngoing conversations about inequity, discrimination, and injustice more broadly, continue to underscore the fact that in order to build a flourishing and inclusive brewing community, breweries, distributors, suppliers, and all businesses within the industry must be safe places that encourage respect, empowerment, and freedom from harassment or discrimination of any kind.”
Breweries can get help with this issue
Each brewery faces unique challenges and needs to find its own solutions. Those looking for guidance can turn to others who handle employment law issues in the liquor and hospitality industry.