Brian Quinn is the strategic director of Town Brewing Co. in the West End and the founder of the Many Faces Initiative, an internship program specifically designed to help people of color enter the craft beer industry.
For Quinn, it was the murder of George Floyd that made her want to tackle long-standing issues in the industry, like the lack of diversity.
In 2021, North Carolina ranked 10th in the nation for having the most breweries. There are about 380. Of these, only six are black-owned, three of which plan to open by the end of this year.
“I wanted to look more at what we could do as an industry moving forward to make sure we deliver on the promise of community that we constantly say we all are,” he said. “I just felt we could do more to really expand our definition of what community means by casting a wider net when it comes to our hiring practices in particular.”
“Many Faces” was launched in 2020 as a way to raise money for diversity scholarships through the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild. But it quickly turned into a grant-based internship program, where chosen breweries receive a grant to support an intern.
“Small craft breweries barely have the budget to hire another part-time keg washer. So I kind of wanted to find a way to get smaller breweries involved in DEI work,” Quinn said.
Brewers and people of color 21 and older who are eligible to work in the states are invited to apply for the 10-week statewide summer program. Participants will be paid and have the chance to work and learn about any sector of the craft beer industry. They also have the opportunity to brew and package their own beer to sell, with proceeds going to the program.
This year, five state breweries are currently hosting interns, including Town Brewing.
But Quinn says that while the initiative is working well, it can still be difficult to connect to the right places to find candidates.
That’s where the Black Beer Chick, Eugenia Brown, comes in.
She doesn’t work for Town Brewing, but she often works as a bridge between the craft beer industry and Charlotte’s black community.
“I’ve done a lot of work to help really showcase women of color in craft beer,” Brown said, “because it’s not usually a space that people see or think about women of color. when they think about it. My big thing is that black girls drink beer too.
Brown, a full-time healthcare worker, took up beer in college. After sampling a craft beer at a local bar, she says her life changed.
“I remember thinking when I first tried it, wow, that’s not the bad beer my mom drank. Because I grew up with a mom who drank 40 ounces and that she loved to drink a beer called King Cobra and I remember trying it for the first time that year, it’s disgusting.
Brown launched her brand, “Beer Chick” in 2019. At first, she sold merchandise like t-shirts and koozies. But an experience she had working at a local brewery made her realize she was called to do something bigger.
“I walked into practice and there was another black person in the room with me and I was like, wow, I’m so used to being the one and being the token and this was another black woman,” Brown said.
Later that night, she realized she had kept access by getting opportunities to work in space, but not sharing that information with other black and brown people who might be interested. to work in craft beer.
“I never really realized that I was doing it too, trying to protect my space,” she said. “I had gotten so used to loving symbolism, being the only one I never asked why there had never been another woman of color in the room with me.”
And from there, his mission grew. She started working to raise funds to cover the cost of Cicero Level 1 certification for 100 women of color. And she achieved that goal.
“It shows the brewery that, you know what, I have a certain level of knowledge, a certain level of expertise, please hire me and try me out,” she said. “Unlike a lot of other people who could probably just walk through the doors and get the job, I knew for a woman of color it would be a lot harder.”
An association of brewers study found that of the 500 breweries surveyed nationally, 24% of owners were female, while 76% were male, and less and 0.5% were non-binary. But gender diversity is where we see the most diversity.
They also found that 94% of owners were white, while less than 3% were black or Latino.
Slowly but surely more black people and people from breweries of color are opening up. But the association’s chief economist, Bart Watson, says he thinks it’s really because more breweries are opening in general.
“It’s nice that we’re seeing more Hispanic, Black, and Asian breweries open, but based on that, I’d say we don’t see a ton of evidence that it changes the overall brewery ownership percentages, given that there are a number of white-owned breweries opening as well,” he said.
One brewery coming to Charlotte at the end of the year is Weathered Souls Brewing, owned by Marcus Baskerville. The 37-year-old has been brewing for 14 years.
“I started taking my beers to local breweries, plays, bars, just to get feedback and see what people thought,” he said. “And this local brewery let me host a tap takeover where they had five of my different beers on tap and all of them were tapped on the same night. And that’s when I knew, hey, you might be in a good position to start making beer for a living.
He launched “Black is Beautiful” in 2020. Being well known in the brewing community, he knew he had to use his platform to make a difference.
“What Black Is Beautiful was was a collaborative effort between all of the breweries that participated, [they would] whip up a stout recipe that was created right here at Weathered Souls. And then, after making this stout recipe, 100% of the proceeds from this stout that they sold will go to charities, foundations, organizations that support police brutality reform, social justice reform, and social justice reform. ‘equality.
Across the country, 1,400 breweries participated and they raised nearly $4 million.
Baskerville says he didn’t want his kids to look back at that moment and ask “where was he.”
“It might not be my passion to want to be in the reform aspect, to be in the leadership aspect, to be in, you know, somebody who can make the aspect,” a- he declared. “But if God put you here to do this, then this is what I have to do.”
With the opening of Weathered Souls Brewing in Charlotte in the fall, Baskerville is launching the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program, specific to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and women. Attendees will work with some of the industry’s top leaders to learn all about malting, hops, yeast, packaging and marketing their beer. It also uses loan officers from the Small Business Administration to help with financing and provide the educational portion of opening and operating a brewery.
It was Baskerville’s love of beer and his desire to create great beers that brought him to the brewing industry.
Now one of his missions is to help people like him do the same.
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