Being a Community Centered Taproom: How Can Your Taproom Give Back?

Craft Brewers Conference 2022
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Speakers: Vernardo Simmons-Valenzuela, Christina Straus, Jamaar Valentine

All across the country, taprooms come in many shapes and sizes. Each interior and exterior is as unique as the individuals that produce and serve the beer within. Even more unique are the varied locations in which we have selected to open our taprooms.

Although we have chosen an industry that continuously highlights its community, we often forget certain aspects of our community that are right in front of us. What happens when we choose to focus on not only the value we gain from our craft beer community, but also the value we bring to the community directly surrounding our taprooms?

Learning Objectives:

  • How to bring value (beyond just craft beer) to communities in the midst of gentrification
  • Providing space for overlooked or disenfranchised groups in your community
  • Adding value to your community by creating a space that entices travelers and tourists to return
  • Helping other businesses in your community grow
  • Supporting nonprofits through these challenges

About the Speakers


Vernardo "Tito" Simmons-Valenzuela, Co-Owner & Head Brewer

Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom

Vernardo "Tito" Simmons-Valenzuela, originally from Jacksonville, Florida, came to Fayetteville, North Carolina via the U.S. Army. After eight years of active service and lifelong friendships with partners Eric Whealton and Jerry Hall, Tito decided to set roots and call North Carolina home. He founded Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom in 2013, following multiple block parties and Oktoberfest celebrations.

Moving forward in a four thousand square foot austere warehouse behind a quick lube shop and a convenience store, Dirtbag's journey to become a destination brewery began. After three informative years, the Dirtbag crew would eventually adorn its new digs. Located on the I-95 corridor in North Carolina, the six-acre facility now plays host to a multitude of community-centered events all year long. On any given weekend, patrons will find several nonprofit companies benefitting from the communal spirit fostered at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom. Focused on providing an inclusive atmosphere and producing creative, quality interpretations of craft ales and lagers, Tito hopes to continue being the driving force of involvement in the local community and its surrounding areas.

Christina Straus

Christina Straus, Taproom Manager

Incendiary Brewing Co

Chris Straus is Incendiary Brewing Company's taproom manager and handles all front-of-house operations and events. A farm girl with roots in Lexington, she likes to stay busy outside of work on the family farm. After skipping away to attend college at Auburn University in Alabama, she returned home and began working in downtown Winston-Salem. She helped open Incendiary in 2018 after working several years at Mellow Mushroom and has over sixteen years experience in the service industry in multiple positions.

Jamaar Valentine

Jamaar Valentine, Regional General Manager


As a "Tarheel born and bred," Jamaar Valentine has always called North Carolina home. His career began in hospitality before so many great craft beers were available in the state. As Jamaar's experience led him to work for a variety of companies, small and large, opening new locations and improving older locations around the Carolinas and Georgia, his focus shifted from front of house development to operations management. In 2019, Jamaar decided to blend his passion for operational improvement, human engagement, and the craft beer world by leaving restaurants and shifting to NoDa Brewing Company. Since then, the evolution of great guest experiences, even during the pandemic, has solidified that the craft beer industry is as essential to his livelihood as it is to the community.