Do most black people want to open a microbrewery at some point? Do any? The Brewers Association, the craft industry’s leading trade group, doesn’t keep records on the racial breakdown of its membership; nor does the American Homebrewers Association, its DIY-focused branch. Both organizations told me they weren’t aware of the existence of any such data. After digging around, neither am I.
So, in the absence of statistics, I set out to answer a simple question: where the hell are all the black craft brewers, bar owners, bloggers, aficionados, and nerds? Why is craft beer -- the consumer side, and especially the business side -- so white?
I started with Garrett Oliver. Oliver is a black man who also happens to be the long-standing brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, as well as an accomplished beer author. When we linked up, it was via email; he was in Slovenia.
In his polite response to my questions (why is brewing so white? Is it changing? Should we care?), Oliver didn’t tell me much. I had the wrong focus, he said; it’s not a craft beer issue but a much broader and deeper problem. “My best answer is ‘See Coates, Ta-Nehisi,’” he concluded. (For the uninitiated, Coates is the preeminent public intellectual in regards to racism in America -- and yes, he’s required reading.)