Queer Beers: On LGBT Representation in Craft Beer

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rainbow

Alright, so at the time of writing this I just finished up a kinda-sorta twitter conversation that I want to elaborate on in this site. LGBT representation. I do know that there are a handful of LGBT folks in the craft beer community, but as a bisexual fan of beer I’d like to see something a little more open within the industry itself.

The first question most folks ask is…why? Why should someone’s non-beer preferences be anywhere near the beer world? And I get that, it’s just that the craft beer community is a very large group of people. We talk about beer, but on other subjects as well. Most commonly the topic of relationships will pop up in conversation, and if someone in a same sex relationship is talking with a group of strangers who are all talking about their heterosexual relationships, it would be understandable if that person decided to omit out of the fear of getting an odd reaction. To me it’s not about whether or not someone would act poorly in response (in my experience they definitely wouldn’t), it’s more that a hesitation like that shouldn’t even be considered before talking about a loved one. The beer community is a very comfortable and welcoming community, but without a visible LGBT figurehead it risks unintentionally closing the door in some people’s face. Just saying “there’s no problem” isn’t cutting it for a group of people who have historically learned that no visible representation = not welcome. Not just for someone attending an event but even someone looking to get in to the industry. Make sense? I hope so.

But what to do? Well, there are two ways to deal with things.

The first is the grand gestures that breweries can do to show they acknowledge LGBT folks as a valid demographic and support them. Sam Adams boycotted the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade when the parade announced the exclusion of LGBT marchers. BrewDog made a Double IPA called Hello My Name Is Vladimir to protest Russia’s anti-gay legislation with 50% of sales going to pro-LGBT organizations. Half Pints Brewing in Manitoba made a beer exclusively for Winnipeg Pride…these are all bold, loud gestures that most likely have swayed over a lot of customers based on the inclusion and rabid defense of that demographic. It feels good to be stood up for on such a grand scale in that way.

The second one is something that is more direct to the culture and requires a bit more thought and a lot of personal risk, but I would like to see someone within the industry openly out as LGBT and comfortable enough to talk about it. Now, I’m not talking about breaking out the pink shirts and rainbow capes (unless they want to), but more of pulling an Ellen Page. Coming out, talking about it, and then going back to work doing what they do best. I think a move like that from someone (and hey, it only takes one or two people) would be wonderful for LGBT people looking to enter the craft beer world, as it would give them someone to look to as a more overt example of representation, which I feel is needed. Something that will have them say “hey, I guess people like me are less alienated than I thought”.

Many know how vocal I am for my love of the craft beer community. It is a welcoming, supportive, smart, funny, awesome group of people who are from all walks of life. All I’m suggesting is that maybe, just maybe, making the welcome sign a little bigger would go a long way for people who aren’t sure just how well they’d fit in to our group. If we could make such a move that will just let people know more clearly how welcoming we are, well…that’d be something to take pride in.

 

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20 Comments Add yours

  1. You did a really great job of conveying this message on Twitter yesterday, but I appreciate the elaboration. I know a few openly LGBT people in the craft beer industry––mostly brewers (brewery reps) or retailers––but I also know a few who have not come out. Part of me wonders if its because LGBT has become such a big political issue in the world these days and most LGBT brewers don’t want to mix business with politics. I’m pro-choice and pretty much as liberal as they come (I mean, I work for an organic brewery for heavens sake!)––but I also don’t go running around the craft brewers conference telling everyone that I have had an abortion and that women deserve the right to choose.

    Now, to support your point, if the conversation comes up, you better believe I will weigh in and tell everyone to back up off my uterus 🙂

    I completely empathize with you on this issue. I’m on the bipolar spectrum, but I don’t go around telling everyone in the industry that I have a mood disorder. And I’m not the only one that has these demons in the craft beer world, but we don’t exactly draw attention to ourselves for fear of being ostracized by our peers. Of course, my boss knows and my family and really close friends know––but it’s not exactly a conversation I feel comfortable having over a pint. You know what I mean?

    Now, even though I gave you some examples of how I understand how you feel––please don’t think I’m arrogant enough to think I know “exactly” how you feel. Just know that I empathize 🙂

    Cheers,

    Ashley

  2. Michael Hornall says:

    I believe the Toronto Beer Fest has had a LGBT night over the last few years. So a major festival involving craft beer has had a alternative lifestyle focus.

    1. Robin says:

      Hey Michael,
      They did indeed, and the Queer Beer Festival, which was more or less an unofficial kick off to the Toronto Festival of Beer, only lasted about two years and promptly folded. Looking in to why is definitely something worth doing.

  3. Derek o'neill says:

    I understand your point but find it odd that having made it, your own bio (why?) doesn’t mention that you are bisexual, seems like you are advocating something that you’re not following yourself.

  4. Hooray, another bi beer blogger! Seattle’s Pride has had Pyramid beer in the parade, and Ninkasi and some of our local breweries make special beers for or serve beer at the post-parade fest.

    I tend toward the side of mentioning being various flavors of queer as well as feminist in bios but not discussing my partner. I dislike the female food bloggers’ tendency to define themselves by their husbands and children as well. It’s a weird place to inhabit, and I wish there were a better balance between being private and comfortable but being able to find and bond with other queer bloggers.

  5. Brian Davis says:

    I found this article a bit after the fact, but would like to mention that I’m a queer brewer working for Lagunitas who’s been out for a few years now. I’ve been exploring this issue a bit as well and would definitely like to see a more visible LGBTQ presence in the craft brewing community. Thanks for this article!

    1. Robin says:

      Hey Brian,

      Thanks so much for reading and responding! And yeah, I’ll be talking a lot more on this subject, since there does need to be some awareness. 🙂

      1. Julia Davis says:

        Since the release of this article, I’ve also come out as transgender and have come out fully at work and in my personal life. The Lagunitas tribe and the craft brewing community at large have both been super-accepting and welcoming! But I still want to work on increasing visibility and representation in the industry.

      2. Robin says:

        Oh, that’s so amazing, Julia! Congratulations! As an advance apology, I’m sorry that I can’t edit your previous comment and change the name. If you’d like I can delete it?

        And fantastic about increasing visibility! You can definitely count me in on joining the facebook group you posted earlier and would be happy to help any way I can! Also damn money, I need to get over to Lagunitas and chill with you over beers…

        Congrats again!

  6. lukas says:

    Don’t forget the first owned and operated Gay Brewery in San Diego, CA – Hillcrest Brewing Company. They got 8 beers on their list.

    1. Robin says:

      Oh, I’m fully aware of Hillcrest and so happy to learn about them! I really need to get back to California so I can give those beers a try!

  7. Hi there. I am a lesbian who works at a Brewery and I found this article because I was chatting with one of my coworkers who is also gay, and we realized there wasn’t an organization dedicated to LGBTQ individuals in the Craft Beer World. Now there doesn’t have to be a niche for every single community, but I think it would be awesome to have an organization in such a “bro” dominated industry. I’ve found the beer world to be so accepting but visibility on a grand scale and having a voice and representation would be so great. If you have any ideas or desire to be involved (I don’t even know what that looks like right now) you should let me know. If not, great article and I really enjoyed reading it!

    1. Julia Davis says:

      It isn’t much, but I started a Facebook group called Queer Beer Alliance, for professional brewers, homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts in the LGBTQ/QUILTBAG community. You can check it out and request membership at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lgbtqbeer/ .

      I’ve also discovered, since coming out as both queer and transgender, that the craft brewing community is super-accepting but visibility is still low. I’d love to help fix that! I work on the brewhouse/filtration floor at Lagunitas Chicago, so I’m glad to at least personally be visible to hundreds of people each day.

      1. That’s awesome. I requested to join – and badass! I love Lagunitas. I work for Uinta Brewing Company in Salt Lake City. I think it would be amazing to start something on a larger scale – imagine if we could just spend our lives traveling around being queer for beer?

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