DEI Committee and Subcommittees Find New Direction at 2022 Summit

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Members of the Brewers Association (BA) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and its four subcommittees—the Mentorship and Professional Development Subcommittee, the Marketing and Communications Subcommittee, the Philanthropy and Outreach Subcommittee, and the DEI Education Subcommittee—met on March 23-25 in Charlotte, North Carolina for a planning summit. This was the second summit held since the committee’s formation in 2017. The first summit took place in Boulder, Colorado in 2019.

The BA’s DEI staff team, committee, and subcommittee members convened with four broad goals for their time together:

  • To build community within the newly extended DEI committee/subcommittee structure.
  • To revisit and revise the original goals the DEI committee was formed with in 2017.
  • To identify strategic priorities for the DEI committee for the next two to three years.
  • To identify DEI subcommittee deliverables for 2022 and 2023.

Building Relationships

In late 2020, the Brewers Association Diversity Committee changed its name to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and adopted a subcommittee structure. This change, which also coincided with the hiring of a full-time Equity and Inclusion Partner, signaled a shift in emphasis for the committee from an “advisory” focus to an “implementation” focus. Over the course of several months in 2021, recruitment efforts increased the size of the committee from seven to nearly 30 members. Given the timing of that recruitment, last March’s planning summit was the first time many members of the DEI committee and its subcommittees met in person.

women conversing at DEI Subcommittee Sumit
Pictured from left to right: Leah Ashburn, President and CEO at Highland Brewing Company; J Jackson-Beckham, Equity & Inclusion Partner at the Brewers Association; Suzie Ford, President and Co-Founder at NoDa Brewing Company

The DEI committee and subcommittee members began the summit with a reception, hosted by NoDa Brewing Company. Committee members were joined by the North Carolina Brewers Guild (NCBG) Executive Director Lisa Parker; president of the NCBG board of directors, Highland Brewing Company President and CEO, Leah Ashburn; as well as several local DEI industry leaders and advocates.

Connections were quick to form among a group that has been working together remotely exclusively for a relatively brief period. Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Mike Smothers, one of a few original committee members who attended the summit, was struck by the group’s dynamic.

“The synergy, the connectedness, and even genius that came out of that room…from people who represent so many different groups and facets of our industry…it was inspiring to say the least, and something that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”

After a full day of planning sessions, the group spent its second evening together enjoying the hospitality of Resident Culture Brewing Company and toured the planned location of the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program, a new venture of DEI committee member and Weathered Souls Brewing Company co-owner Marcus Baskerville, that aims to support Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-owned brewery start-ups.

Revisiting Goals

The DEI Committee was founded as the Diversity committee in 2017 with the following goals:

  • Establish an organizational structure within the Brewers Association that is committed to diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion.
  • Collect, collate, analyze, and disseminate data to promote diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion across all aspects of the small and independent craft brewing community.
  • Support and promote diversity within the small and independent craft brewing community, including breweries, wholesalers, raw material suppliers, and retailers.
  • Actively attract and retain a diverse community of drinkers of small and independent craft beer.
  • Promote diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion on all Brewers Association public-facing properties, including Brewers Association events, publications, and websites.

Upon revisiting these goals, committee members came to three significant conclusions. Original committee member Heather Sanborn of Rising Tide Brewing Company reflected on the first, “the summit brought home for me that we are in the middle of this work. We have moved past the start-up phase and are solidly in the growth phase. Some of the things we aimed for in Boulder three years ago have been accomplished.” Committee members also determined that two of the original goals were formed with the right intention, but were too vague to provide specific direction for committee activities and lacked ways to measure progress and success. Finally, the committee acknowledged that its activities should be more explicitly integrated with the American Homebrewers Association (AHA).

“The 37,000 American Homebrewers Association members are a very vibrant and viable part of the overall craft beer community, and broader Brewers Association membership,” said Julia Herz, executive director of the AHA. “As we set out to grow equity and inclusion within beer, we also need to support homebrewer resources, knowledge, and empowerment as part of the work.”

Establishing New Priorities

Some of the committee’s most impactful time together was spent developing a vision for the committee’s work moving forward. The group collectively envisioned a craft brewing community that prioritizes thriving people, exemplifies belonging for consumers and communities, and is a uniquely attractive place to find employment.

Pictured from left to right: Fenwick Broyard, Vice President (VP) of Culture at Creature Comforts Brewing Company; Ryan Farrell, VP of Staff Development for the Brewers Association; and Marcus Baskerville, Co-Owner at Weathered Souls Brewing Co.

Five new goals were developed with the intention of moving the industry closer to that vision. They are:

  • Realize consistent year-over-year improvement on Brewers Association Equity Scorecard benchmarks.
  • Directly impact the start-up of 15 craft beer businesses or homebrew clubs led by underrepresented or traditionally marginalized groups annually.
  • Realize 5% year-over-year progress toward national demographic representation in the craft beer industry workforce and individual AHA membership.
  • Increase the adoption of DEI best practices among BA and AHA membership through education, engagement, and advocacy.
  • Become the alcohol beverage sector with the most demographically representative consumer base.

Subcommittee Deliverables

With five ambitious new goals in hand, the committee turned its attention to determining what projects and programs it would take on in the next three years to achieve these goals. A lively brainstorming session produced more than a hundred ideas. Many of those ideas were brought to the summit by committee and subcommittee members who reached out to fellow Brewers Association members, state and regional guild leaders, and members of groups who are underrepresented and traditionally marginalized in the craft brewing community to collect suggestions prior to the summit.

Most of the work for projects and programs supported by the DEI committee is conducted in subcommittees. Equipped with a list of ideas sorted into areas of focus, subcommittees broke out into groups to discuss which project and program ideas best aligned with the committee’s new goals and subcommittee members’ interests and expertise.

Fenwick Broyard of Creature Comforts Brewing Company joined the Philanthropy and Outreach subcommittee in February and was one of the newest members in attendance. “For me, the summit was the perfect introduction to the work of the overall committee, in that it crystallized, for me, the work of my subcommittee and allowed me to understand our work (and my contribution) within the broader goals of the overall DEI committee and the Brewers Association.”

A Bright Future

In the weeks following the summit, the subcommittees of the DEI committee have worked to refine the project plans and establish goals and deadlines for projects that extend through 2024. Members interested in learning more about ongoing subcommittee projects should plan to attend the Opportunity Maker Meet-Up at the Craft Brewers Conference® on May 4, 2022, at 5:00 pm CT. Among a range of new projects are also plans to bolster existing efforts like data collection and benchmarking, the Mentorship Program, the DEI Mini-Grants Program, and the development of educational resources.

“We are now at a point of expanding programs with more intentional focus to have even more impact and really start working on the craft beer and homebrew culture itself,” said Roxanne Westendorf, who was an original member of the committee and currently sits on the BA board of directors as an AHA representative. “I think we are bringing in broader thinking about DEI as a whole. Our programs will benefit everyone, even as they are primarily focused on creating access and making craft brewing more equitable for marginalized and underrepresented groups.”

The Brewers Association Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee welcomes participation from all Brewers Association members. The DEI Committee is comprised of four subcommittees and ad hoc working groups and task forces to address the evolving needs of the craft brewing community. If you are interested in serving on one or more subcommittees of the BA DEI committee, please complete this form.

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