The “you must have at least this long a beard to brew beer” jokes land because everyone -- even people who aren’t craft beer drinkers--understands the underlying premise: Craft beer drinkers are white, male, straight, and preferably flannel-clad. Is this still true in 2018? Are craft beer drinkers actually more diverse than the industry realizes, but the optics just haven’t caught up? Or does craft beer really suffer from systemic homogeneity that it will have to actively confront if it wants to rid itself of the cliche? Whether it’s both, one, or neither, there’s a new face who’s tasked with finding out: Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the first ever Diversity Ambassador for the craft beer trade group Brewers Association. Jackson-Beckham is an assistant professor of communication studies at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, a longtime homebrewer, and a craft beer researcher.
Jackson-Beckham stepped into the newly created role in April to cheers from within the beer industry, and addressed the largest craft beer industry conference, Craft Brewers Conference, in May. I spoke with her a couple days after CBC to find out what she hopes to accomplish in her new role; what diversity and inclusion look like in the beer world; and what to do with those critical of her mission.