Brewers Association CEO: ‘It’s Time For An Awakening;’ BA, Industry Orgs Launch Brewing Respect and Unity Coalition to Address Harassment

Brewers Association (BA) president and CEO Bob Pease today announced the creation of the Brewing Respect and Unity (BRU) Coalition to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the beer industry.

“COVID-19 is not the only disease that has afflicted our communities, harmed our businesses, and our employees,” Pease said in the opening remarks of the first general session of the 2021 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in Denver. “We as a community — and we are by no means alone in this — have suffered under the cloud of racism, sexism, discrimination based on gender identity, sexual harassment, even assault, far too long.

“This scourge of discrimination has festered and held us back as a community, as individual businesses, and as human beings,” he continued. “It is time for an awakening.”

Joining the BA in the formation of the BRU Coalition are the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA), the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC), the Pink Boots Society and the Cicerone Certification Program.

The BRU Coalition aims to drive change by “adopting an industry-wide set of best practices that are proven to reduce harassment, discrimination, and violence,” and “compiling and sharing tools and resources that enable industry members to adopt best practices,” according to a press release.

“This is just the beginning,” Pease said. “The coalition is a long-term commitment to provide industry-wide best practices to build an equitable, safe and inclusive growing community.”

Nearly 2,000 members of combined BRU Coalition organizations participated in a three-part training on sexual harassment hosted by the BA in May, June and July. The BA has also negotiated discounted rates for its members with WeVow, which offers sexual harassment prevention training, HR consulting and a harassment reporting platform.

CBC includes six sessions of the “Bystander Challenge” workshop, an educational session hosted by the National Conflict Resolution Center that aims to teach participants “how to have challenging conversations in ways that demonstrate respect, inclusiveness, and dignity for everyone involved” pertaining to workplace harassment.

The formation of the BRU Coalition comes after a several months-long reckoning with the harassment, discrimination and violence women and female-identifying people working in the beer industry have faced. The uncovering of thousands of stories from women in beer from across the world on the Instagram accounts of Brienne Allan (@ratmagnet) and @EmboldenActAdvance began in May.

In the wake of the revelations, founders and leaders of several prominent craft breweries resigned, including Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands, California’s Modern Times, Massachusetts’ Lord Hobo and Wormtown, as well as smaller breweries and beer-related organizations, such as Illinois’ Pollyanna Brewing and Connecticut’s Connecticut Valley Brewing. Other breweries and organizations shared the results of external investigations that revealed employee mistreatment, including Minnesota’s Indeed Brewing.

Cicerone, which is included in the organizations leading the BRU Coalition, published the findings of an external investigation and accepted the resignation of an employee named in stories shared by Allan. In addition to that employee’s behavior, the investigation also cited problematic quotes from an employee identified as “Employee X,” noting that for said employee “further training (or coaching) is warranted, but not necessarily discipline.” Employee X told Hartrick Employment Law, which conducted the investigation, he regrets making the comments in 2010 and would not make them again today.

The investigation included a quote from Employee X included in a 2010 Chicago Tribune story, which attributed it to founder and global director Ray Daniels.

“We certainly are aware of what Cicerone experienced; we’ve read the investigation, read the report,” Pease told Brewbound. “I’ve known Ray for a long, long time and I know he takes this very, very seriously, so we’re proud to have them involved.”

The BA hopes to add other beer industry trade groups, such as the National Beer Wholesalers Association, to the BRU Coalition.

“We’d love to get people from a wholesaler community involved because a lot of stuff happens out in the field,” Pease said. “The more people we get in, the easier it’ll be to impact change.”

Pease’s call for an awakening in the industry was echoed by Virginia Morrison, co-founder and CEO of San Diego-based Second Chance Beer Company and co-chair of the BA’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee.

“We’re at an inflection point — we can and need to come together and be better,” Morrison said during her general session address. “We must come together, talk to each other, listen, understand and learn from each other, educate ourselves, not just on social media, maybe read some books.”

Morrison called on white men, who account for the bulk of the BA’s membership, to speak out against injustice and mistreatment.

“Please know that we cannot do this without you,” she said. “You still wield a lot of power, and we need you to stand up, speak out, advocate, and defend those of us who don’t have your power, just like you would for your mother, your brother, your best friend, your partner.”

Morrison praised the efforts of Allan to expose the misogyny and misconduct in the industry, and admired “the courage and the bravery it took to lead that charge.”

BA board of directors chairman Dan Kleban, co-founder of Freeport, Maine-headquartered Maine Beer Company, also implored BA members to call out injustice or abuse within the industry.

“We need to be responsible for our industry’s actions, and hold ourselves and our fellow brewers accountable,” he said. “Creating durable and lasting change, however, is neither quick nor easy, and it shouldn’t be, but that shouldn’t deter us.”