It’s not news, but an overdue wake-up call. After Brienne Allan asked other womxn in beer about sexism they’d experienced, thousands of stories poured in, which Allan began sharing in her Instagram stories at @ratmagnet. Now, craft beer is confronting its pervasive sexism and abuse.
Last month’s No Corporate Beer column in Decibel #202 discussed steps that breweries are taking to address systemic racism. The work begins now, too, to overhaul the industry and create something safe, welcoming and equitable for womxn. Ash Eliot is the founder of Women of the Bevolution, a group she started after entering beer after over a decade in music. It began as a way to connect, provide safe spaces and help with job opportunities. Over the past weeks, Eliot says it has evolved into an advocacy group. We spoke about beer’s dire need for change and the way forward.
What do you think some of the core ways that craft beer has been failing women as well as people of color, and what is the impact of that?
By marginalizing women, non-binary individuals, BIPOC and LGBTQ+, you’re not only missing out on a key opportunity to engage a diverse consumer, you’re missing out on learning from these diverse voices how you can do business better. As a business that can influence culture and build community, you have a responsibility to uphold because anything you do will affect society and future generations. If you don’t have women and a diverse staff, especially on the production side, then you’re part of the problem and you’re suppressing an entire group of people.
What are some immediate resources and steps you’d recommend for people who want to get dialed in here and learn how they can contribute to positive change?
If you haven’t seen the stories from thousands of women in the industry, then first go to @RatMagnet’s Instagram highlights, and start following the new account where stories are now being shared, @EmboldenActAdvance. Reach out to women you know in beer and hospitality to show your solidarity and that you want to advocate with them for change.
Look around at your favorite brewery or bar and ask yourself what are they doing to make this a more inclusive environment. Look at the staff, the menu selection, the decor and social media. Where do they stand? What is their policy to keep female customers safe, too? There are also helpful guides and resources available at WomenoftheBevolution.com.
What do you want to see for the future of craft beer as an industry? What do you think craft beer could and should be?
It’s not going to be easy, but yes, it needs to be saved because it does have such an influential place in culture. And it needs to be inclusive and progressive; otherwise the industry will get left in the dust. Whether you notice it or not, beer is everywhere. For example, in music, every festival organizer and venue owner should be looking at what breweries and brands they work with because that decision influences massive amounts of people who are highly engaged.
The industry needs real action, and that includes businesses stepping up to do better, listen and learn from diverse voices, and be part of this movement for change. Consumers, hold these businesses accountable, because that’s truly the only way change will happen.
I am hopeful that, out of this, more women will start their own businesses and collaborate. What we really need is more woman-owned businesses in the industry. And I hope Women of the Bevolution can be part of their story and amplify that in any way possible.
Since this interview was conducted, Ash Eliot and Brienne Allan have partnered on the Brave Noise initiative and global collaboration brew, which is in honor of the brave voices who have spoken up and shared their stories of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination in the beer industry. The collaboration is focused on advocating for safe and inclusive environments. “We hope consumers look at this as an opportunity to see where their favorite brewery stands. Are they part of the problem or taking actions toward a better (beer) world?” Eliot says.