Indeed Brewing Co-Founder Details Ouster in Wake of Outpouring of Women’s Experiences of Discrimination in the Beer Industry

As women from across the beer industry share stories on social media of their experiences with sexual harassment, assault and abuse in the beer and hospitality industries, it has become clear that the misogyny is widespread and being felt at all levels, from the taproom to the boardroom.

Rachel Anderson, a co-founder of Indeed Brewing, said she experienced toxicity even as a co-owner. She shared her experience of being forced out of the Minneapolis-headquartered craft brewery that she helped build in an essay titled “I am a Craft Beer Casualty.”

Indeed’s response to the recent outpouring of women’s experiences of sexual harassment and misogyny in the craft beer industry and its toxic workplaces — shared on the Instagram profiles of Notch Brewing production manager Brienne Allen (@ratmagnet) and now @emboldenactadvance, a non-profit organization of anonymous industry women — inspired Anderson to tell her story.

“Indeed is trying to take responsibility — or trying to make it seem like they’re taking responsibility — for the culture of the company, but that same culture is still oppressing me as a co-owner of the business,” Anderson said. “I have not seen one single penny of this money from Indeed since I left.”

Indeed chief operating officer Kelly Moritz published an open letter last week asking the public how Indeed “could be better” after being named in anonymous accounts accusing the brewery of having a sexist environment. She offered her phone number and email address, adding that she would “honestly be a little disappointed” if she was not overwhelmed with messages.

“We, at Indeed, are not blameless or above criticism. I know we’re not doing everything perfectly. But I can tell you that we are trying. I am trying,” Moritz wrote. “I’ve sat with coworkers and cried tears with them, felt all the nuanced feelings of pain and shame and insecurity and uncertainty that comes with sticking your neck to try and exist somewhere you don’t always feel welcome, been wrecked by it, and then gotten back to work trying to make Indeed not just a fine place to work by industry standards but an excellent place to make a career by any standard.”

The combination of that response and the crushing weight of about 1,000 accounts from women across the country dredged up feelings Anderson had long suppressed.

“Personally, I had tried to move on from this for a long time, just out of self preservation, basically, because it’s emotionally exhausting to think about, and it’s not easy to relive,” Anderson said. “But after I saw all the things that were coming forward that @ratmagnet had highlighted, I just started getting increasingly angry, and I just felt such a sense of injustice for women in this industry.

“I knew that the way that I had been treated wasn’t right, and the way that so many women have been treated is not right,” she continued. “Then I saw Indeed’s response to some of the anonymous allegations against them, and after I saw that, I just felt like I could not not say something.”

Co-founders Tom Whisenand and Nathan Berndt, college classmates of Anderson, approached her to develop branding for the nascent brewery in 2011. She received an ownership stake, led branding and marketing efforts and helped make key decisions for the Minneapolis brewery.

“The early marketing efforts generated so much buzz that as soon as we launched, we had lines out the door. And the lines and buzz kept growing,” Anderson wrote. “Publicly, Indeed seemed like the ultimate success story. And it was. I felt validated in my decision to make the leap. It felt incredible to see my hard work pay off.”

However, as Indeed’s star rose, Anderson began to sense a shift in her standing at work.

“There was a level of intimidation from some of the other co-owners from, kind of, Day One,” Anderson told Brewbound.

In her blog post, she added: “Privately, I was waging an uphill battle against a toxic culture where my voice was not valued. Patterns of dysfunctional behavior and gaslighting became the norm. Narratives that were meant to make me feel diminished began to take hold.”

After giving birth to her second child in 2014, Anderson took an unpaid, six-week maternity leave and returned to work with her daughter in a carrier on her chest.

“In leading up to the birth of my second child, things started to get really untenable just with the anticipation of being a mom to another child,” Anderson told Brewbound. “At that point, I had hired a marketing coordinator to help me and transitioned her into a position where she could cover for me while I was gone, but it felt so just unstable that I didn’t feel like I could leave very long, so I was back at the brewery after six weeks, bringing my baby along with me until she was old enough to go into daycare.”

Her request for better work-life balance “was seen as a lack of commitment to the business.” In her essay, Anderson wrote that her advocating for fair compensation was seen as “an annoyance” and asking for help with her “ever-expanding job responsibilities” was seen as “a weakness.”

“All throughout my time there, they would say stuff like ‘You’re not acting like an owner,’ so that I actually started feeling like I was less of an owner than they were,” Anderson told Brewbound. “But legally, and through our company setup, I’m as equal an owner as Nathan and Tom.”

The hostility Anderson experienced from her co-founders ramped up after her maternity leave and being back at the brewery felt “extremely toxic,” she said. She suspected Whisenand and Berndt used her absence to create a narrative that would lead to her exit, either by termination or resignation.

“The level of support was zero from both the other co-founders — just like extreme hostility, undermining me to other employees, trying to build this story that I was not competent, so that when they finally were able to push me out that they could point to these things and say, ‘See, look, she was terrible,’” Anderson said.

In October 2015, Anderson was handed a termination letter and was voted out of her seat on the brewery’s board of directors several months later. In the “last couple months” before then, Anderson’s relationship with her co-founders had turned cold.

“Towards the end of my time at Indeed, neither Nathan or Tom would speak to me or acknowledge my presence,” she said.

She still holds her minority ownership stake — which Whisenand and Berndt offered Anderson in the beginning of their working relationship without her asking — but has received no financial compensation or information from the company in years.

At the time of her dismissal, Anderson was offered the opportunity to have her share of the company bought out, but she refused, and instead began the work of rebuilding her career to support her family as a divorced single mother.

“I was unemployed with two small children and had to figure out what my next moves were,” she told Brewbound. “As far as my career, I had written off being in the design world in Minneapolis, because I thought I was gonna be part of this company. So, I had to basically rebuild my portfolio, reestablish my connections, tried to job search to find another job right away, because I was left with a zero at that point.”

She launched Anderson Print & Pattern Co., which licenses prints and patterns for home decor and children’s clothing and has created branding for Women Winning, a local political organization.

Since Anderson has come forward, Whisenand posted a statement to the company’s Instagram page on Tuesday, May 25, acknowledging that “harm has been done at Indeed” and apologizing to her. He shared that the company is looking for a neutral third party “to identify our flaws and make sure they aren’t ingrained in our company,” and has invited Anderson to participate in the search.

“Rachel’s account of founding, working, and being terminated from Indeed is an example of gut-wrenching and imperfect decisions that exist within personal and business relationships,” Whisenand wrote. “As in life, there are countless things I’d wish we’d done better, things we’d learned quicker, and things we still need to learn. Rachel’s work set our brand on a positive course, is forever baked into our DNA and we are grateful for that.”

For Anderson, the statement “rang pretty hollow,” she wrote in an email to Brewbound.

“This is the first acknowledgement or attempt at an apology of any sort in the 6+ years that I was removed from the company,” Anderson wrote. “I even left the window open for a response (public or private) last week, commenting on their first fumbled statement, and letting them know that I was planning to share my story. And no response.

“And while the apology portion of the statement felt like a flimsy attempt to save face, the invitation to be a part of a third party audit of company culture at Indeed was particularly offensive,” she continued. “Reliving and sharing this story has been painful enough. And the expectation that I would want to work (unpaid!) with the same people who discarded me so callously to examine the very toxicity that fostered my removal was insulting.”