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Beer Bros


You are starting to see more workplace activism at breweries due to the horrible behavior of the white dudebros who run them. See Modern Times:

The staff at Oakland’s Modern Times Beer have announced that they are on strike, seemingly, after an Instagram account sharing stories of sexism and racism in the craft brewing industry — that included Modern Times — gained traction this week. Via a collective statement posted to Instagram Tuesday, the Oakland staff says they have “watched with disappointment and embarrassment as the stories of sexual harassment within our company and industry were published by Brienne Allan. We will not be pouring beer in Oakland until we feel that company leadership acts in a way that aligns with our personal values of inclusion and equality, and that appropriate actions and measures are put in place to prevent further discrimination and harassment.” Not long after the staff’s post, Modern Times’s founder and CEO, Jacob McKean, announced he was stepping down from the company. The brewery, which started in San Diego, has expanded all throughout California in the last few years, opening an Oakland location in 2019. Stay tuned for more details.

And then Wormtown, a local favorite of mine from Worcester, Massachusetts:

Most of the ownership group of Wormtown Brewery is stepping back from direct involvement in operations while the company investigates allegations of sexual harassment posted anonymously online. 

“We will thoroughly investigate the alleged activities and take corrective disciplinary action with any individual reported to us to have engaged in unacceptable conduct in the workplace,” General Manager Scott Metzger wrote in a note to employees posted online. 

In his statement, the general manager Metzger said all owners with the exception of co-founder Ben Roesch have “made the decision to step back from any day-to-day or direct involvement in the operation of the brewery.

The owners of the brewery stepping back, a spokesperson confirmed Friday, are David Fields, Rich Clarke, Jay Clarke and Kary Shumway.

In the note to employees, Metzger said the company intends to create an advisory board “comprised of a diverse and inclusive group, with the right skillsets to help us steer the business, by filling experience gaps, improving innovation, instilling better management practices and overall strategic guidance.”

This is getting some attention. Bon Appetit had a piece a few days ago on what it’s like to be a woman in the beer industry.

Megan Stone, media coordinator at Societe Brewing Company in San Diego, California: “In a previous job, I can’t even count the amount of times I would cry due to the severity of my toxic work environment. I was once called a ‘bitch’ and one boss told everybody he was ‘going to fuck me straight’ because I asked for simple handoff meetings [where managers exchange information in between shift changes]. Whenever I tried to report these things at the many previous breweries I worked at, I experienced gaslighting. I was told that things were in my head, that people probably didn’t mean the things they said even though I was bringing repeating issues to my supervisors. HR would always say that, if no one else was around to witness the bullying or harassment and if it didn’t leave a bruise, then there was nothing they could do about it. As a woman, I’ve constantly had my ability and knowledge questioned.”

Erin Wallace, owner of Devil’s Den in Philadelphia and local chapter leader of Pink Boots Society, a women-led organization focused on career advancement in the beverage field: “I had the opportunity to purchase my restaurant from a family member and turn it into a craft beer bar in 2008. There was an incident when an employee and I went for lunch and he made a comment about how he’d really like to take me to a hotel. We had a conversation about how inappropriate it was and that he could not say anything like that again. He agreed, but a few months later he said he had a gift for me but one he did not want to give me in front of my husband or his wife. I told him he shouldn’t give me the gift. A month later, I came into work and he made another comment about how the boots I was wearing were making him ‘hard.’ As an owner, I felt helpless because I don’t have management to report to. So even when I am a woman in a position of power, men are still trying to take our power.”

Chanell Williams, craft beer blogger and influencer based in Seattle: “I have held numerous positions in craft beer distribution nationwide. When it comes to sexism in the industry, the overarching mindset is to suck it up and deal with it. And as a woman of color, I feel like I am always having to hold on, even through the pain, even through abuse, offhand comments, and microaggressions. I once attended a beer festival to network and break into the industry. Going into those spaces as a single woman, I was already wary of the types of behaviors I might encounter. I was working relentlessly to make a name for myself back then, and a group of men requested a picture with me. Being in the influencer role, this request was not out of the ordinary. I stood between them to take the photo and one of the men reached out and grabbed my breast. I slapped the man’s hand away and said, ‘Excuse me. Don’t ever touch me again.’ They all just laughed at me.

This is just a toxic, awful industry that happens to make some of the best beer ever made in the history of the world. There needs to be a serious reckoning with the behavior of these jerks. The libertarian beardbro culture of breweries makes it hard to organize and creates cultures that allow for many forms of exploitation–gendered, class, and racial. Not every brewery is like this–I was at a brewery that had a Black transgender woman working behind the bar yesterday which is at least in a step in the right direction, though who knows how she is actually treated. But perhaps even a majority welcome and create cultures of toxicity. This is a serious workplace issue.

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