27 May The Only
What’s it Like to Be the Only Black Person in a Taproom? In an industry and community that’s so heavily dominated by white males, what’s it like to be the only?
The day was February 28th. I (Tony) am scrolling through Instagram, and I see a post made by @brewbroshtx
The post reads, “The month may be over, but Black History doesn’t stop here. It’ll continue to be made as we push for diversity and inclusion within every aspect of the craft beer scene. Black and brown alike have a voice and on behalf of the crew here; we’d like to salute all of those who have been using their voices, pushing this narrative before we even got started. Thank y’all.”
He went on to tag about 2 dozen black and brown beer folks, and it got me right in the feels…
“That’s awesome,” I whispered to myself, as I tapped the message button, “We need more of this. We need to use Beer Chronicle to amplify this message.”
I made my pitch to the Brew Bros. “Josh is Hispanic, and so am I (although I’m never on camera for anybody to see it). Chris is a ginger, and our first writer to join Chris and I on day one was Vietnamese and gay. Wanna put together a write up about race, inclusion, and craft beer?”
He replied, “Let’s do it!”
Below is our first post on the topic. Hopefully, it won’t be the last. If you want your voice to be heard, send us your write up.
When I think of craft beer I immediately think of breweries. More specifically, their taprooms.
The bar area of the brewery in which one can enjoy fresh beers on tap. I’ve visited over 70 breweries & taprooms (and counting) across the country.
I’ve even enjoyed craft beers in Canada; Toronto and Montreal respectively.
Each experience has always been different, but the one thing that does not seem to change is the fact that I am usually one of a handful of black people.
Many times, I am the only minority in the building.
I start to question, “Where are all the people who look like me?” Not just as patrons, but taproom and brewery employees as well.
According to USA Today: “In 2016, African Americans made up 12% of weekly craft beer drinkers.”
As a representative of the aforementioned 12%, I can immediately remember a time in which being the only felt uncomfortable.
For example, entering a local brewery and not being acknowledged by 4 employees is quite an absurd experience for a consumer, especially a minority.
You don’t want to think of racism or discrimination, but it does cross your mind.
Furthermore, was their conversation more important than my business?
Typically, I will not spend my money when I do not receive a proper acknowledgment upon entering any business establishment. In this example, I never returned to this brewery; not because the customer service was in question, but because of the beer quality. It was sub-par in my humble opinion; trash.
I am all for enjoying what I believe is good beer.
In another not so great example at a local brewery, the vibe was immediately off-putting when I entered the taproom. Have you ever seen or felt the “what are you doing here” type of stare?
It was at this time in which I learned to exercise patience. For some brewery employees, this is just a job that they might not be in love with. It’s the exact same as any other occupation. Maybe they were just having a bad day.
I’ve since returned and the vibe was totally different from those same employees. They were friendly, welcoming, and open to conversation: these are the interactions I truly enjoy, paired with great beer, of course.
Despite a few hiccups along the way, craft beer is the only beer for me. I’ve met many amazing people from all walks of life within the craft beer community at breweries, taprooms, events, and beer bars.
Being the only has driven me to help found Brew Bros: an organization which fosters diversity and inclusion in all aspects of craft beer. When I visit breweries and taprooms, I want to be engaged and feel welcomed.
Ambiance is very important, but beer quality outweighs that. Awesome beer and great customer service are the perfect balance I feel breweries should try to achieve.
Does anyone want to be ignored or perhaps stared at when entering a brewery? Does anyone want to drink lesser beer when greater options exist?
One must find these options by visiting breweries, taprooms, festivals, bottle shops, and bottle shares even if you find yourself as the only one – the only black, the only brown, the only white, the only yellow, or the only green. Yes, green. Surely you didn’t think I’d forget the newbies.
Co-Founder of @brewbroshtx; a diverse craft beer social club based in Houston. An advocate for minority representation throughout all aspects of craft beer culture. Favorite beer styles: hazy IPAs, pastry stouts, and Berliners.
Follow @brewbroshtx on Instagram to support diversity and inclusion.