LifestyleBlack History Month

Actions

Brewers and filmmaker look to increase diversity in craft beer industry

Posted at 2:00 PM, Feb 20, 2021

Look anywhere in Milwaukee, and it’s not hard to find someone enjoying an ice-cold beer.

It’s big business in Milwaukee and nationally.

The craft beer sector is a multi-billion dollar industry and the people reaping most of the benefits are its owners, a majority of whom are white men. According to the Brewer’s Association’s most recent survey, less than 1% of brewery owners are Black.

The lack of diversity in the brewery industry is the focus of the Aaron Hosé documentary “One Pint At a Time."

“To kind of shed light on an industry that's very white male-dominated and very little minority representation,” said Aaron.

Aaron said some of the reasons he believes there is a lack of diversity in the industry are due to lack of marketing towards minorities, generation wealth gap, expensive start-up cost, and training.

“Craft beer, because it cost a little bit more, hasn't been marketed to minority communities, so if you don't drink it, you're not going to wonder what it's about or be interested in the industry let alone making a career out of it,” said Aaron.

Aaron's most recent film, “A Fresh Perspective” highlights the first Black Beer Festival that took place in Pennsylvania in 2018.

In the documentary, brewers continue the conversation about the change needed within the industry while Aaron highlights the hard-working and talented minority craft brewers.

One of the brewers breaking through barriers is Alisa Bowens-Mercado. She opened Rhythm Brewing Co. in Connecticut in 2018 and is the first black and first black female-owned brewery in the state.

“Diversity in the craft beer industry is essential to moving the industry forward, I will tell you anything any industry that is there are $114 billion annually and people of color and women, especially of color are only representing less than point .005% of that, we know that there needs to change, we know we know that there needs to be a conversation but it really goes directly goes to economics…if we are not in a position to be in the position to employ, the employers to have people in head brewing positions in this industry, then there's a disconnect and I think that is what has motivated me, I would say it's bigger than me in a can of beer, it really is about economic opportunity and employment opportunities for our people,” said Alisa.

Alisa said the way to see continued change within the industry is through support from locals and different organizations.

The Michael Jackson Foundation is an organization aimed at providing grants and scholarships for Black, indigenous, and people of color in the brewery industry. The nonprofit Beer Kulture is doing the same.

As the craft brewery scene continues to grow, Alisa and Aaron said when there are diversity and representation, we all win.

“When you have a good mix of people, everyone brings their own ingredients to the table so all that culture and history gets integrated into the beer,” said Aaron.

“Dive into industries where you can really make a difference by that ground roots effort we need more voices in the beer industry,” said Alisa.

To learn more about how to view a fresh perspective, click here.

To learn more about the Michael James Jackson Foundation click here.

Any minority business owner looking to receive help from the State can contact Seyoum Mengesha, Diverse Business Development Director with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation at seyoum.mengesha@wedc.org.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip