Reporter’s Notebook: Why I Wanted to Talk About Race

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A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting at the front of a room surrounded by fellow beer bloggers and writers listening to Julia Herz of the Brewers Association. It was the first day of the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference, this year held in Asheville, North Carolina.

As Herz spoke to our group of 150 attendees – from the titular writers to brewery representatives, marketers and more – I looked around the room and jotted down in my notebook my first two thoughts of the conference:

  • What were demographic registrations for past years?
  • Male/female breakdown of ’15

At the time, Herz was speaking about women’s place in beer and its growth in recent years. An important topic to discuss, for sure. As I continued looking, I saw plenty of female faces, but they were all white. Ditto for the guys.

Which led to my third note:

  • Anyone of color?

Of the 150 registered participants at the conference, 61 were female. In that room, that would actually be accurate to the third of women who make up craft beer consumers.

But there was one person of color – Liz Garibay.

“No matter whether I’m going to a gathering for history or beer or writing, it’s usually not very diverse,” she told me. “Most crowds for these things aren’t, unless they’re very specific to target an ethnicity or gender. That’s the way it’s always been.”

To be fair, as a representative microcosm of the beer-loving public, I shouldn’t have been surprised. White drinkers dominate festivals and events I’ve attended for years, perhaps for reasons outlined in this previous post. But I still felt the need to pause and consider how and why this was something that mattered to me.

After all, white reporters dominate the media industry both in newspapers and television, so why shouldn’t that be the case with beer writers, too?

I sat on the thought for a few days, trying to think of how this breakdown must be taking place at events and in taprooms across the country. Mostly, it made me think about what it might be like for people who aren’t like me – white and middle-class. The stereotypical craft beer drinker.

But this is not about the idea of white guilt or anything of that sort. I’m a reporter and a writer. My literal job is to ask “why?”

So I did.

And from people all over – first Liz and Allen Heurta, then Os Cruz and plenty of other off-line conversations – I started to find answers and perspective both historical and cultural. I was also left with plenty of questions which continue to pry at others, too. How does a cultural divide of our country fit within our niche community? Why do people care about this? Should they care about this?

The answer to that last question – at least from my perspective – was a resounding “yes.” If Liz or Allen *think about* this kind of stuff, then it was worth my time to investigate.

So here we are, three days and three posts later, hopefully better for having a conversation with each other. It’s a testament to the power of curiosity.

All it took was a look around a room and a question.

reporters notebook-notepad-beer bloggers conference

Related reading: 

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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4 thoughts on “Reporter’s Notebook: Why I Wanted to Talk About Race

  1. Discussing race in brewing and beer culture is absolutely vital for sustainability. What happens when these white millennials decide they are no longer interested in craft beer, move, have a family or the myriad of other ‘ifs’. Beer culture has become this tight knit, phobic culture addicted to the same shit, different day for lack of better wording. We are so scared to step outside of our comfort zone, to ask these difficult questions of ‘Why?’. People in this culture are not doing this to be malicious– they really just have never thought about it. Great post– what’s your region of focus?

    • Thanks so much for reading and your support! These are all aspects that ring true to me and helped push me to address the topic in the first place. I’ll follow up via email on your question, too.

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