At this year’s Beer Bloggers Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a panel of three white people was asked a series of questions by a white moderator. The articulate, educated panel included Anne Sprecher of Sprecher Brewing Company, Lakefront Brewery’s Russ Klitch, plus Mark Garthwaite, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild.
Then the conversation went this way: “Why isn’t there more diversity in craft beer?”
The steady stream of conference-related tweets came to a halt, and I don’t think I was the only one to glance at the two black men in the packed room.
Anne pointed to the famed Garrett Oliver, the African-American figurehead at Brooklyn Brewing, as a counter-example. Russ indicated that Lakefront has several employees of color, most of which work the canning line. The room wasn’t becoming any more at ease.
This is what he said:
To be clear, everyone has a right to voice their opinion on diversity in brewing, and in fact they should. But when the conversation is about black people, let’s ask the black people, no?
You can tell by the ease with which he spoke that our aim was to have a genuine, productive conversation. This was informal (as indicated by the background noise and flattering camera angles) and I hope it’s a conversation that will continue. I consider Eric a new friend, and that’s a good place to start.