Craft Beer Is Finally Having Its #MeToo Moment

Mine, all mine

Beer is a heavily white, male space. You probably knew that even if you aren’t into beer. The bearded hipster-dude stereotype is ubiquitous. Budweiser made fun of it at the Super Bowl.

That stereotype’s ubiquitous because it’s fairly accurate. While I’ve never worked at a brewery or in a beer-adjacent space, I am a fanatic for craft beer. I plan trips around breweries. I have a beer to-do list. I’ve spent a lot of time in breweries, beer bars, and beer festivals. And it’s white dudes all the way down.

Well, not all the way down. Spoiler alert: There are indeed women who work in the industry! People of color too! But this $22 billion-plus industry is stubbornly alabaster and masculine.

Craft beer has had controversies over sexist incidents in the past. It had a mild kerfuffle over sexist beer names and marketing several years ago. And it had a comparatively less mild period of introspection about racism and representation during last year’s George Floyd Rebellion and in the wake of racist incidents at Founders Brewing. But it’s never had a real reckoning with how hostile it can be to women who work within its confines.

Until now. Until a brewer named Brienne (@ratmagnet on Instagram) related a sexist incident that happened to her, then offhandedly asked her audience about any sexism they’d experienced.

Thousands of responses poured in.

Stories about sexist comments. Stories about harassment and discrimination. Stories about groping. Stories about at least one attempted rape. And stories about every imaginable (and unimaginable) disgusting bit of misogyny in between.

Over several intense days, Brienne has dutifully and courageously documented these instances in a long series of Instagram stories, and you should go read them here. I’m in awe of her and of everyone courageously telling their stories. It’s long overdue.

There are a lot of breweries mentioned in these stories. Several breweries are mentioned more than once, and a few are mentioned repeatedly — breweries like Hill Farmstead, Modern Times, and Tired Hands, absolute juggernauts of craft beer.

Modern Times, a personal favorite brewery, has already released a plan to address the issue. It sounds legitimately good. But one of the two heads at MT was accused multiple times, and he has stayed on through the years despite these incidents surfacing before. How far does a statement like that go when a company has protected a serial harasser? Is there a path to redemption, or are they permanently canceled? I’d like to hear what you think.

(Update, 6/3/21: The accused CEO of Modern Times, Jacob McKean, resigned shortly after I published this. And MT employees have directly confronted the issue in a pretty impressive way. Although you can see more evidence of how deeply rooted the problem is in the comments.)

I already have a long list of breweries that I don’t support*. That list just got longer. It’s already really tough to find good, independent beer at the airport, the ballpark, or the small-town store. (I walk around the entire Oakland A’s stadium to patronize the single independent brewery stand at the entire stadium: Drake’s — which was also named in one of the stories.)

Most importantly, this awful, toxic behavior is finally getting the light and oxygen it deserves. Will the industry change? Or am I about to get really into wine? (Nothing bad happens in the wine industry, I’m sure.)

* I choose to support only independent breweries that aren’t owned by conglomerates like AB InBev. Here’s a partial list of “faux craft” breweries. You might recognize some of them, such as 10 Barrel, Ballast Point, Blue Moon, Elysian, Founders, Golden Road, Goose Island, and Kona. If you prefer to support a local, independent small business over a huge conglomerate that engages in anticompetitive business practices, look for this seal on the packaging.