Keep the Change

In this new award, Beer52 and Ferment recognises the individuals and groups driving meaningful and positive change in the brewing industry.

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• • • Keep the Change • • • GOLD

GARRETT OLIVER

Brooklyn Brewery’s master brewer Garrett Oliver has always been a bit of a hero to the team here at Ferment, so when we heard he would be chairing the new Michael Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling, we knew it would be something special. Established through the legacy of Michael Jackson – the world’s foremost beer and whisky writer, who passed away in 2007 – the foundation sets out to advance technical education and facilitate career opportunities for people of colour within these industries in the US. 

Garrett was the obvious choice to chair the foundation through its early years; a friend and mentee of Michael, he has shown himself over a long and successful career to be humble and principled, yet also ambitious and a true leader. 

“I think everybody knows that craft brewing has been somewhat monochromatic over the past 20 years, but fortunately that’s changing,” he says. “And I think that we can provide people with a boost in their careers, at least within the United States, through courses that are well known and respected by brewers.” 

For Garrett, the key to ensuring the foundation enables lasting change is that its scholars should eventually enter the industry with the same spirit of lifting up their peers. 

“There are many paths to a brewing career. But we were no longer living in the world that I came up in where you could you know teach yourself everything over 30 or 40 years. I never actually went to brewing school, so my advice is never going to be quite as relevant as the advice a young person of colour can get from someone who just got into the industry four or five years ago. So when we put someone through the programme, we will expect them to be willing to go on and act as mentors themselves; that’s a very important part of the set-up.” 

This feels like a sentiment of which Michael – who spent his career encouraging, nurturing and shining a light on talents who he felt deserved a larger audience – would no doubt approve. Even at the peak of his game as a brewer, one can sense that Garrett feels his own legacy is still being built, and that’s what makes him such a worthy winner of this award.

• • • Keep the Change • • • SILVER

BRIENNE ALLAN, SIOBHAN BUCHANAN AND FANNY WANDEL

In late spring, the UK craft beer community was wracked with soul-searching, as some of its best-known and most respected names were accused of perpetrating or enabling misogyny and bullying.

It all started across the Atlantic, on the Instagram account of Notch Brewing’s Brienne Allan (@ratmagnet) who bravely shared her own stories of sexual mistreatment in the industry, and offered to hear and amplify the stories of others. What started as a steady trickle quickly grew to a torrent, as more women realised they were not alone and added their voices to the call for change. In the UK, the baton was picked up by Siobhan Buchanan (@britishbeergirl) in the UK and Fanny Wandel (@fanny.wandel) in Denmark, who have collected and shared similar stories, naming names and confronting the accused head-on.

Such direct methods have proven controversial, with critics arguing that careers have been jeopardised with little due process; some have even threatened legal action against the women. But the outpouring of genuine pain and anger has undeniably shone a light on a real problem at the heart of our community, and forced us to examine and stridently re-state our values: that craft beer should be safe and welcoming to everyone, whether as a worker or a customer. 

Punks with Purpose 

Rumours of unethical practices and poor working conditions at BrewDog had been circulating for a number of years, but were always played down as part of the company’s fast-moving, challenging-but-rewarding public image. This all changed when a group of employees organised to publicly call on the business to change its ways.

Punks with Purpose’s open letter to BrewDog, published 9 June, was a passionate and devastatingly credible account of sexism, bullying and mismanagement, co-signed by more than a hundred current and former staff. It caught the attention of the mainstream print and broadcast press, forcing the brewery to acknowledge the problems and commit to reforms including an independent HR review and meaningful employee representation.

Punks with Purpose remains active and organised, and has pledged to monitor BrewDog’s progress against its public commitments.

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