The Diversity Data Is In: Craft Breweries Have Room and Resources for Improvement

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This article was updated on February 24, 2020.

The results of our Brewery Operations Benchmarking Survey, an optional survey completed by Brewers Association members, provide a valuable set of tools specific to craft brewers. The survey results give us, and you, a pulse on where craft breweries fall tied to a variety of topics including financials, packaging and distribution, human resources, salaries, and, more recently, a pulse on the diversity among the people who work at craft breweries. With the 2019 data now available, anyone scanning it will conclude there is work to be done, and we as a craft beer community can do better.

Some Not Surprising Conclusions About Brewery Employee Diversity

When sharing insights on the survey results Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson said, “The data show that similar to craft consumers, brewery employees are disproportionately white relative to both the general U.S. population and where breweries are located.”

On gender: “Production staff tends to skew heavily male, owners a bit less, while non-production staff have a bit more gender balance.” The sample showed 54 percent of breweries owned by one gender, 31 percent with 50-50 ownership, and 15 percent with some other mixed gender split. Of the breweries that were owned by one gender, 96 percent had male owners. Additionally, race and ethnicity demographics of U.S. brewery employees showed a range of 76.2% white for production staff (non-managers) to 89% (brewers).

Progress to Create a More Diverse Community Is Happening

When I first wrote about this topic in 2016, it was prior to association statistical resources being available. Brewers, media, and beer lovers were asking us, “What is the association doing to advance diversity and inclusion in craft brewing?” At the time, without any concrete statistics available, I was only able to answer what we wanted to know and what we planned to do.

Today, with brewery members actively working to break the stigma that craft beer is only for white men with beards, combined with the commitment of the Brewers Association Board of Directors and its Diversity Committee, we are slowly making progress in further creating a welcoming craft beer community for everyone.

Here is a recap of some of the steps we have taken:


  • Created the Brewers Association Diversity Committee to identify and address resources to foster a more inclusive craft beer community
  • Updated the Brewers Association Marketing and Advertising Code to provide standards on inclusive beer advertising and marketing
  • Hired the association’s first diversity ambassador to provide instruction and resources in the field
  • Doubled down on seeking out and publishing “people stories” through that highlight the diverse stories our craft beer community brings to life
  • 2017 – 2019: Presented multiple seminars devoted to diversity at the annual Craft Brewers Conference® (available for replay here)


  • Created the Diversity Event Grant Program to fund local and regional events that intentionally promote and foster a more diverse and inclusive craft beer community
  • Sponsored the North American Guild of Beer Writers Diversity in Beer Writing Grant through


  • Published a five-part series of diversity best practices resources designed to help a business with everything from starting the conversation about why diversity matters and what it means to them, to setting up a framework to assess the success of a diversity and inclusion program. Since publishing in January, we’ve seen close to 1,000 member downloads. We want to see more.
  • Announced the six recipients of the inaugural Diversity Event Grant Program
  • Instituted a Code of Conduct for Brewers Association big tent events including the Great American Beer Festival® and Homebrew Con™
  • Sponsored the North American Guild of Beer Writers Diversity in Beer Writing Grant through
  • Surveyed the craft beer community and released our first benchmarks on brewer owner and employee diversity, in terms of gender and race ethnicity
  • Began work on diversity and inclusion case studies of craft breweries who are successful examples who could serve as industry models

Getting Some Perspective

Having a diversity and inclusion program is more than just the right thing to do. It is an opportunity for businesses to lead and succeed. Additionally, research studies increasingly show that inclusive and welcoming best practices can help increase a business’ bottom line, drive innovation, attract more talent, attract more customers, and create more opportunities for growth. That said, we recognize different markets have different demographics to pull from. This needs to be kept in mind when looking at aggregated national data.

With this lens, we are seeing many examples of betterment. Beyond the statistics, it is important to acknowledge that the Brewers Association and many craft breweries are on the path to progress. Many craft breweries have hired diversity ambassadors or consultants. State brewers guilds like Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and more are creating diversity and inclusion initiatives. Brewing organizations around the world, including the Brewers Association with its Marketing and Advertising Code, the Society of Independent Brewers, and most recently Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), have upped the game on beer labeling standards too.

I also have personally witnessed thousands of craft brewers attend the numerous diversity and inclusion seminars at the past few Craft Brewers Conferences and state brewer guild conferences that I’ve attended. The seminar attendees are from all walks of life, united in the room’s universal attitude of “we’re here to create change” and that questions can—and do—lead to answers.

To me, making progress starts with being comfortable asking questions. Sharing this 2019 benchmarking data on who works in U.S. craft brewing is an example of us asking questions.

It’s Not About Optics or Grandstanding

Way back in 2016, the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in the Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages category went to Dave Infante for his Thrillist article, “There Are Almost No Black People Brewing Craft Beer. Here’s Why.” As Infante said in the piece, “While craft beer isn’t the source of the problem, I think it might be some small part of the solution.” Here, here, Dave. Here, here.

Our collective work in this area is not about optics or grandstanding. This is about taking meaningful action and determining concrete outcomes on a topic that permeates every industry. This is more than a noble effort. It’s an effort that, with diligence and intention, will pay off in spades both in beer and culturally.

I’m more than excited to state that today, the association, and many craft breweries, are actively working to be agents of social change, instead of being back seat passengers on a ride to no progress. As the resources and concepts above get at answering the tough question of how craft breweries can, as small business, innovators, and community-minded organizations address diversity and inclusion that, in itself, is something to be included when evaluating the state of craft brewing and benchmarks.

How Craft Breweries Can Advance

It is my hope that every craft brewery will invest, embrace, and endeavor to improve their diversity and inclusion practices. With advancement top of mind, let’s recap three key concepts reinforced by Dr. J. Nikol Beckham, Brewers association diversity ambassador:

  • Identify and address unconscious bias that may exist within yourself and your team.
  • Give people an anchor they can relate to by hiring a diverse set of staff and attracting a diverse set of customers. That requires getting good at recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.
  • Make sure everyone feels invited and welcome at your brewery and make sure everyone has a “comparable experience.”

Brewers Association members are invited to view the full resources and the “how” on the above here: diversity best practices resources.

Members can access the diversity benchmarking data and a precursor on additional learnings here.