The Craft Beer Industry Needs to Change

The Craft Beer Industry Needs to Change

This won’t be like most of our articles here on The Beer Thrillers; sadly this won’t be uplifting, or happy, or about how great the craft beer industry is. Hopefully, it will be optimistic by the end, and a voice for change, and hope in the future, that things will be better. But the verdict is out on that. Many times in the past there have been ‘voices for change’ that have been silenced, quieted, ignored, or had their names and reputation ran into the mud.

Hope and change is why this article is even an article. It’s why Brienne is using her Instagram page (@ratmagnet) to shed a light on a very dark corner of the craft beer industry. The beer industry in general.

This will be an uncomfortable conversation. But its one we need to have. Frankly, its one we needed to have far too many times in history, and even more frankly – it’s one every industry needs to have.

It’s a difficult and uncomfortable conversation we need to have with ourselves, with our friends, co-workers, bosses, customers, people of authority, people without a voice; flat out – all people. It’s one of those “THEE CONVERSATIONS” that is talked about, said that it’s talked about, and told to be talked about… but isn’t talked about.

I will give the warning here – this article may be triggering. It will discuss sexism, it will discuss sexual harassment, gender control and gender power, and this all might be troubling to many people, especially those who have been traumatized and lived through this, those who soldiered on and hid their PTSD and their experiences.

I will also be a bit more open, and discussing things that are maybe a bit more personal here, than I have in any other article or post or piece here on the blog. I think this is all relevant, I think it needs to be discussed, and I want to make this discussion happen.

We Can… We Should… We Need To Do Better

This is almost a phrase that is brandied about too much, too often, and thrown around too light heartedly, or without even relevance or reverence. “Men need to do better.” Fair, and true statement. But it doesn’t mean anything. Everyone needs to do better, all the time. Period. We all do. I do. We all do.

Firstly, we are all humans (unless you are a robot reading over this, or an intelligent alien species hacking into my blog, or an evolved Cat in the future), and thus prone to being… well, human. Prone to mistakes. Errors of judgment. Moments of weakness. And propensities of the nature of greed, lust, evil, and all that entails. We are also, prone to ignorance, to not understanding, and to not learning.

One of the biggest crimes after big momentous events, is our unwilling to learn. To see the lesson. To grow. To become better. To examine ourselves. The first person we all need to hold accountable is ourselves. If we can’t do that, if we can’t hold our own heads up, our own esteem up, our own egos up, if we can’t look ourselves in the mirror, if we can’t examine our characters down to the core, then there is no victory in holding the elite, the owners, the businessmen, the workers, the powerful accountable. Even the lowliest serf must first hold himself accountable before he can hold the King accountable.

That is not to say at all that the King shouldn’t be held accountable, far, far, far from it. It means change begins at home. It means that we must be the change we wish to see. This doesn’t give the King slack, or an ability to get off, oh no, he must be held accountable as well – in fact he needs to be held accountable far more than that lowliest serf. Those with power have the responsibility of that power. In whatever form they control and wield it. Be it ownership of a business, be it an authority figure (our leaders, our politicians, our clergy, our philosophers, our social workers, our business owners, our voices), be it a role model, be it a parent.

This also goes for all people. All backgrounds, all creeds, all colors, all philosophies, all thoughts, doctrines, dogmas, all genders, all loves, all faiths, all practices, all people. Plato said that at his trial Socrates stood in front of the tribunal and said: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” And this has become one of the most famous phrases in history, and for good reason. We must examine ourselves daily. All of us. We have all wronged in the past. But if we don’t examine these wrongs, we have no place to grow, if we just give cop out apologies and a non-comital “sorry” and “I won’t do it again”…. what do we do when it happens again? And again? And again?

To be human is to grow. Who we are at 56 is not who we were at 25 or 10 or 5. And that’s because of growth, one of the most powerful agents of the universe is change. Time is change and change is time. But if we are stagnant, and unchanging in time, if we don’t accept our flaws, don’t accept the wrongs we made, and assume ourselves at the point of infallibility, then all is lost right there and then.

I Can’t Believe This Still Happens in 2021

This is another phrase I abhor. And especially in this context, and especially by who utters it the most (men – specifically probably white men in this context). You know who says this? The naieve, the blind, the ignorant, the man who doesn’t want to believe, or the ones who just want to look better on the Facebook page of their female friend. “Oh my gosh, I had no idea this happened in 2021 still! Shouldn’t we be beyond this?! In this industry no less?!?!” (And yes, that is almost verbatim a comment I’ve seen, by a man.) The ‘fake’ or ‘disingenuous’ incredulity.

Its demeaning, and it downplays, and it lessens the impact.

Because you know who does believe this still happens in 2021? Women. Women or who are being sexually manipulated, women who are being harassed at work, women who are being told they can’t do this or that because they are, or might, or never will be pregnant (and yes, women can be belittled at work for NOT being pregnant or wanting to be pregnant just as much as they can be belittled at work for BEING pregnant).

You know who also knows this still happens in 2021? All of us. Deep down, we all know its still going on. We’re not truly surprised when we hear on the news about how this or that celebrity did this or that horrible thing. When so and so had an affair or when so and so turns out to be a behind the scenes creepy producer. We know that 2021 is not different than 2020 in this regards or different or better than 2015 or 2004 or 1995.

…But it can be made to be different.

I would put money on people saying “Its 2005, how can this still be going on?” or “This still happening in 2005? I thought we were beyond this! Better than this!” in 2005. And I bet they said the same thing in 2000. And 1990. And 1980. Etc.

So lets work at actually becoming better.

We All Make Mistakes, So Let’s Learn

What are mistakes but ways to learn and grow? Thats the entirety of the point of them. To learn, to grow, to become better and understand ourselves, our world, our errors, our flaws, our strengths, our weaknesses, and everything in between, so that tomorrow we are better than we are today.

I was in Middle School when I was taught by a teacher to do three things every day: One thing to make the world a better place, one thing to make yourself a better person, and one thing to make someone else better. And over the years since, I’ve heard this same dictum in different ways. Things like, do one thing to make yourself more intelligent, more spiritual, more helpful each day; or make your local area better, make yourself better, make the world better; or do one thing to grow your body, one thing to grow your spirit, and one thing to grow your mind each day. And all of these takes boil down to one thing – making things better. January 1st doesn’t need to be the only day we set goals and try to achieve things and become better. I should be a better person on May 5th, than I was on May 4th. On August 29th, I should be better than I was on August 28th, and August 27th, and June 15th.

I know I make mistakes. I think back to my high school years and middle school years (late 90s / early 2000s) and I would certainly be by no means considered “woke” if people heard my verbiage or actions back then. I would barely be considered more intelligent than pondscum to be honest (and some might consider be still in the neighborhood of pondscum intelligence to this day really). I know I still make mistakes (there’s a reason I’m discussing hiking and reading more than beer on my blog lately). But this is how life is for all of us. We need to grow and learn from these mistakes.

We need to better ourselves. We need to hold ourselves to accountability, and we need to proclaim the wish to do so, so everyone knows, so they see it, and so they hold themselves accountable, so they examine themselves, so they better themselves.

Why are we having this discussion?

Maybe I should have started this article with this. The background, the story behind the story, the reason for this article. I believe most already know it, especially those reading this article. But for those who don’t, I want to discuss it here and now. I felt it rather more poignant discussing the need to change before launching into this. I’ve been somewhat vague and nebulous above about things, but after giving the history and the discussion in this segment, I’ll move onto the more specifics of it.

I was first made aware of the story of “Brienne’s Story” by Aaron Gore, a craft beer writer and friend on Facebook. he posted a GoFundMe for lawyer and court fees and money for Brienne due to people attacking her over her Instagram page.

As Vinepair’s article today states, Brienne Allan (a professional brewer) asked for women’s first hand accounts and stories of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. And she has received thousands of messages in response. Here is a small snippet by Beth Demmon at Vinepair about this:

What started last week on Tuesday, May 11 as an offhand request for women’s stories about experiencing sexism in the beer industry on a personal Instagram page has escalated into a mass callout of craft beer industry members across the world, sending shockwaves across the industry.

Thousands of messages — and counting — sent to brewer Brienne Allan (who goes by the Instagram handle @ratmagnet) include accusations against some of the beer world’s most lauded brewers and breweries: Shaun Hill, founder and brewer of Hill Farmstead; Jean Broillet, co-founder of Tired Hands Brewing; Jacob McKean, founder of Modern Times Beer, as well as Lord Hobo Brewing Company, Union Beer Distributors, BrewDog, and many others. Some allegations accuse brewery owners of complacency toward a toxic work culture under the shroud of progressivism; while others directly accuse individuals in the industry of sexual harassment, assault, and more.

Beth Demmon – VinePair Article: “Sweeping Accusations of Sexual Assault, Rock Craft Beer Industry”

This also comes on the heels of some other big news in recent weeks regarding BrewDog and and Yards and how they have treated female employees.

Brienne’s Instagram Homepage

Brienne, using her Instagram page (her handle is @ratmagnet) has eight stories that you can click through and read detailing the sexual assaults, harassments, abuses, and other horrible things done to women and other people of minority and gender flux. Her about page reads:


She has eight stories with numerous posts in each on her Instagram page. I suggest reading through them all to get an idea of the scale and scope and size of this all. To see how many people have / are / will be affected by all of this. This is certainly not something to be taken lightly.

Several people and organizations have weighed in, with their comments, thoughts, and opinions about the current landscape and the recent news.

Breweries in PA Facebook Page

Typically we begin every Monday with something lighthearted to start the week. But today that does not feel appropriate.Over the weekend a very bright light was shined on discrimination and gross misconduct occurring in the craft brewing industry across the country. And a few prominent Pennsylvania breweries were named directly.We have no knowledge if the stories being shared are true or not, as all involved parties have not weighed in. But regardless, that does not make anyone’s experience of injustice any less valid. So we wanted to take the time this morning to acknowledge these stories, but more importantly stand in solidarity with anyone who feels they have been mistreated, victimized, or faced any other discrimination.Better yet, we must all work with one another to make this industry a shining example of the good that can be done through small businesses. We are working hard ourselves to make a positive impact throughout the industry, and we hope you all have the same goal in mind. We must not let acts of discrimination simply be justified as “playful banter.” Every person, regardless of gender, race, or age, should feel welcomed in the craft beer community, and we all play a part in achieving this.

Breweries in PA Facebook Page

Hannah, head brewer at Naked Brewing in Pennsylvania, made a very poignant and inspirational post on Facebook as well. One I thought that was so thoughtful and needed to be read by all, I asked her if I could use and share here on the blog, and she has graciously allowed me to post it here:

Hannah’s Facebook comments

I have been very quiet since the recent reports of sexual misconduct, assault, harassment and discrimination have surfaced, and there’s a reason for that:⁣⁣

𝐈𝐓 𝐈𝐒 𝐇𝐔𝐆𝐄𝐋𝐘 𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐆𝐆𝐄𝐑𝐈𝐍𝐆. ⁣⁣It is not because I don’t believe them. It is not because it is something I wish to ignore. Believe me, I fucking wish I could ignore it for even 5 minutes, but that’s just not how it works in my brain. ⁣⁣For warriors of abuse(I use that term over victim or even survivor because I AM a fucking WARRIOR), seeing, hearing, reading, listening to these accounts, can be hugely, hugely, hugely triggering. Memories and things that I had pushed way down below have quickly bubbled to the surface like a noxious gas bubble and are permeating every part of my life. The anxiety has been debilitating. I am *barely* holding my shit together. ⁣⁣For now, those things that have happened to me, the things that I have experienced, I have chosen to keep them private and not share within a public realm. Many people do know of the things I have experienced. I reported them many, many times to the organization that I worked for at the time (Note: not currently). There is written documentation. There are people that will read this and wonder if it’s them that I am referring to. And if you have to ask yourself that, then the answer is probably YES. There are people that have been the offender who have worked tirelessly to learn how to be a better person. They have atoned. And while it does not absolve them from the things of the past, I have been able to forgive *some* of them (but not all. Some of you still have A LOT of fucking work to do). ⁣⁣One of the biggest reasons that I am currently choosing to not publicly disclose specifics, is because of the lack of 𝐒𝐔𝐏𝐏𝐎𝐑𝐓 𝐈𝐍 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐀𝐅𝐓𝐄𝐑𝐌𝐀𝐓𝐇.

You may read this and say “but I’m here! I support you!” And while yes, I know that that is hugely true, is it enough?!? I don’t know. ⁣I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW. But I know that once it comes out publicly, you can’t put it back.

⁣𝐈 𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐤𝐞 𝐮𝐩. ⁣𝐈 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐝. ⁣𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬. ⁣𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐲𝐞𝐭… 𝐍𝐎𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝗪𝐀𝐒 𝐃𝐎𝐍𝐄.

Every single one of those people is still employed. And I have had to deal with and process those things for years. YEARS. ⁣⁣⁣Telling my stories (because yes it is plentiful) puts me back to a place of having to relive it. While I am currently reliving them, and then remembering even more that I suppressed, it is very different to have to relive it on a public stage. I’ve already lived it on a semi-public stage and saw just how much victim blaming and shaming happened, and I’m not sure that I am in a place to do that again in the present time. We can talk all day long about being an ally and an advocate and speaking up when you see something, but until there is more 𝐒𝐔𝐏𝐏𝐎𝐑𝐓 𝐈𝐍 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐀𝐅𝐓𝐄𝐑𝐌𝐀𝐓𝐇, I’m just not ready to blow open the experiences that I have had. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣I applaud people for doing this. I applaud those that are speaking up and sharing. I applaud those that are allies and advocates. But…It’s tough y’all. 𝐂𝐇𝐄𝐂𝐊 𝐈𝐍 𝐎𝐍 𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑 𝐅𝐑𝐈𝐄𝐍𝐃𝐒. They might not be okay. That’s the kind of support in the aftermath that we all need. Oh. And empathy. Have some. Please. ⁣⁣⁣This is all I have for now. Take care of yourselves. 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐛𝐫𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐫𝐬. *If you have nothing positive or supportive to contribute to this post, then please kindly keep scrolling and save your keyboard warrior bullshit for another time. PleaseAndThankYou*

Hannah’s Facebook comments

Aaron Gore’s post on his Facebook:

Aaron Gore’s post and link to Brienne’s GoFundMe for Legal Fees.

Please help support the legal fund for Brienne. Some of the people who have been getting called out repeatedly for sexual harassment and assault in the stories she has been reposting are threatening legal action. While they may not have any legal case, that doesn’t mean that they cannot destroy her financially regardless.For us to keep having these hard conversations and continue to weed out the toxic elements of the craft beer community and work toward the ideals we say we believe in, we have to be willing to protect the people who shine a light on stuff like this.

Aaron Gore’s Facebook post

Brienne’s GoFundMe can be found here: Help Brienne with Legal Fees. As of 10:30PM (5.17.21) they are currently up to 12,900$ of the 15,000$ requested. You can click the link above to go and donate.

Where do we go from here?

Firstly, having this conversation is important. Its hard, its difficult, its awkward, its uncomfortable, but it needs to be made. And it needs to be remembered, and it needs to not be muted. It needs to be kept to the forefront. Just like our conversations on racism, our conversations for LBGTQ+? and our many other important conversations. It needs to be remembered, it needs to be ongoing, and it needs to be forefront.

Looping back around to the start of this article, we need accountability. In ourselves. In our businesses. In the breweries in question. We can define what happens with these breweries with our money, with our voices, and with our conversations. We can hold those mentioned accountable. We can require and request they speak up, defend or correct themselves. And we can then handle ourselves accordingly in light of how they handle the situation.

Teach and learn. Discussions and classes and lectures, meetings, etc. Many universities, schools, offices, and businesses offer chances to learn of diversity and to do training, specifically for diversity training, or other similar styled programs.

Teaching isn’t something just relegated to those already in the business. This needs to be taught in the home, to kids growing up; of all persuasions, it needs to be taught to the youth and the elderly. It needs taught wherever and whenever it can be. Every moment of every day, every interaction, everything that happens, is an opportunity to learn. To grow. And thats what we – as humans – as people – need to be doing.

Familiarize yourself with what sexism is. What sexual harassment is. What sexual abuse is. Just like racism, we all think we know what it is. “Bad words” and people saying they hate Group X, but thats not all it is. There’s so many more insidious forms of it. So many different ways to discriminate that we don’t see or might not know of. Especially for those who never been discriminated, abused, harassed, or prejudiced against. Your blinders are there and you cannot see them is no excuse for allowing it to happen in front of you over and over.

Familiarize ourselves with who and what has been mentioned and how they reacted. Are they lashing out? Attacking? Are they defending? Or are they growing, learning, becoming better? Are those who were found guilty still in power? Still in control? Still in ways able to manipulate, abuse, coerce, control, or harass; or are they still able to empower those who still do these despicable things?

Stopping it. When we see it, when we hear it, when we witness it, when we hear others speaking of how they saw it; we need to stop it. We need to listen to those victimized, we need to offer our ears and hearts to them, and we need to help stop it when we see it. The rude comments, the jokes, the harassments, the abuses, we need to stop it from happening in the first place.

Anyone who has gone to AA or to a therapist, or anything similar, can tell you that the first step is to admittance. Denial is a huge problem for anyone with an addiction, an issue, or a root problem. Denying there is a problem, either in yourself, or in the industry, or with the issue at large (in this case sexism) at all is denying the story of others, denying their tales, their lives, their experiences.


I find this all very personal, and we all should, everyone one of us. Everyone regardless of who we are, what we are, when and where we are, should find this personal. You don’t need to even think in terms of “my mother” or “my sister” or “my wife” or “my daughter”, think of it merely in terms of “Her Name” or “This Person”. This is how personal it needs to be. That we are don’t have to personalize it more than it is, because it is already this personal to us as a human race.

But, we still do, and I do, I think of my daughters. I have been blessed with three daughters. They love going on me to trips, hiking, visiting battlefields, going to great restaurants (they love eating good food), and they have enjoyed going to me in safe settings of breweries. Especially my middle child. She is on a quest and learning as she grows, just like the rest of us. She has a lot of struggles with herself, with people, with life, (don’t we all?). She is having a lot of questions as she journeys through life and navigating young life and where she is in and what she is in it. She loves going to breweries with me and learning aspects of the science behind it. She is my homebrewing partner in crime and helped me with an IPA batch and loved the brewing aspects of it. The science behind it is a science she can get behind herself, its not just figures and equations in a notebook, its something she can do and touch and help, and its not the theoretical or hypothetical, its more of the real. And she also sees how brewing, just like cooking, is an aspect of creativity, and this touches her very artful soul. She’ll be turning 12 just this week, and I think of her future.

If she pursues a job in this field – or any field – do I want this kind of work environment for her? Do I want this for my other daughters in whatever fields they get into?

The answer is obviously no.

One of the many quotes I go back and over with as a father, and I’m not sure of the source, but the quote is: “Look at yourself in the mirror, is this the type of man you want your daughter to marry. If not, change it.”

I think of the many industries that have been “MeToo’d” and how this past few years, this past decade, has been a massive wake up call for men, and for those in power, (specifically white men), and how much needed change and reform has happened, or begun, and how it needs to continue.

I feel like we are on a precipice, and we could easily teeter-totter over either side. We could go backwards and regress, we could mute the conversations, and hide ourselves up in towers or cabins or dark holes. A Texas politician is trying to stop teachers from discussing racism in the classroom. That is how you mute a conversation. That is how you defeat the conversation, defeat the change, defeat the progress. We need to tip to the other side, and progress, to better ourselves, to better humanity, and we can’t do that as individuals. We can’t do that as people who don’t help those less fortunate or different or voiceless or unable to help themselves. A team is only as good as their weakest link; and there is no weaker link in humanity than those unwilling to help or hold up or foster growth in their own colleagues, friends, relatives, and common folk.

At the end of the day, this is all a story about us. About us as people, about how “we need to do better”. How “we can’t believe this is still happening in 2021”. This is a story of hope and change. Optimism can still flourish, and in fact, needs to. We need to see how these conversations we are having, as troubling as they are, are going to affect and offer change, and make the world better; not just for women, or for minorities; but for all of us.

I look at my daughters, I look at my female friends, I look at myself, and I want a better world for all of us. Thats the personal of this. Thats the personal it should be for all of us. Look in the mirror. Do you want a world where you could be discriminated at – for your gender, for your race, for your creed, for your looks, for your philosophies, religions, likes, dislikes, etc?

I think to my own work and my job. The casino industry is certainly no alien to the world of misogyny. Much like the craft beer industry, it is a white man’s power world. I see how customers and co-workers treat the female co-workers. How they stare, and oggle, and make comments. I see how my own co-workers oggle the guests and call out “craps game” when a pretty woman walks by. I see how the girl in the tight pants gets talked to and treated differently than the man or the woman who is older. I’ve seen guests yell at the younger female dealers more than they would yell at a man because they think they can get away with it. Calling them all the most despicable names that they would never utter to anyone else; and this is someone they met for the first time and only dealt with for five minutes. Just yesterday I witnessed an older man (late 60s or older) screaming at one of the servers and calling her a “f***ing liar” over five dollars and following her around until security came over to him and escorted him out of the building. I’ve seen players and guests try and touch the female dealers and managers, small touches to their shoulders or thighs, or even worst touches to their backside and more.

This is why we need this change. Why we need these conversations. It needs to get put out there and blown up. It needs to be the issue that it is.

So I have hope, and optimism for the future. I have hope that in two months, this isn’t just forgotten about and swept over and moved on from. But that this conversation stays in the forefront, and that we continue to learn from it. To grow from it. For all of us to become better for it all. Lets look to the future when we’re all people, together, equal, productive, and happy, together.

I would like to thank Hannah and Aaron for reading over the article and allowing me to use their quotes and for their help. I cannot express enough, how much I suggest everyone read the Instagram stories, the Vinepair article, the GoFundMe page, and the other resources that are popping up. I believe this is a real conversation we need to be having across all landscapes and all fields and businesses. In families, in work, in places of worship, in philosophy centers, and in schools. I remember just a few years ago there would be beer labels with ‘boobs’ or cleavage or sexualized women, with beer names like “Panty Dropper” or “Hike Her Skirt Up” and other “rapey” sounding beer names (the theory being, once she was drunk, she was easy), and its good to see the industry has progressed from this at least. There is still some names out there that are ugly, names that I’d hate to take my daughters to the brewery and they see it up on the tap list, and worst to order it in front of them (needless to say I wouldn’t order it). We are making progress, albeit slowly, and in spurts and jumps rather than a straight continual line, but progress is being made, we just need to make sure it continues.

I thank you all for reading this very long post. I think its one we needed to make, and one I needed to write. With my mood being really down lately, and seeing this, and it hitting home, knowing how guys can be. Worrying about my daughters growing up in the world, wanting only the best for them, in all of their endeavors, and all the choices they make.

Knowing how charged this can be, please keep the comments section civil. I would appreciate if names are not used in the comments section, and we try to remain respectful, polite, and cognizant that this might be read by people you are talking to / about / from. I do have the ability to delete and block commenters, and will not hesitate to do so.

Again, thank you everyone for reading. With the new mandates in Pennsylvania changing, and places opening up more, please be careful, and hopefully soon we’ll be sharing a pint at the bar. Cheers!

-B. Kline

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