It’s one thing to say all the right things. It’s another to do them. This is one of many themes that exploded to the surface in 2020 as the fight for racial equality and justice moved from the streets into almost every corner of society, business and culture in the United States. For Beer Kulture, a nonprofit organization that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion in craft beer, this reckoning was a long time coming — though it still has a long, long way to go.
To further the progress, Beer Kulture provides small scholarships for people of color who are interested in getting training to work in the craft-beer industry. The organization, which was founded four years ago in Florida as a marketing and events promoter before changing its mission, also collaborates with breweries and other companies in the beer industry. Its most recent collaboration was with Primitive Beer Company, a tiny but influential Longmont blendery that makes barrel-aged wild and sour ales.
The beer that Primitive just released, Peach on a Beach, is a blend of spontaneously fermented beers aged for up to three years in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels and infused with Colorado-grown Allstar Peaches and Tahitian vanilla beans. Uncarbonated, or “flat,” Peach on a Beach was packaged in Primitive’s unusual bag-in-a-box packaging, a tradition with Belgian roots. Primitive ships these beer boxes to 21 states.
But collaborating with Beer Kulture isn’t as simple as sending an email. “We have kind of an interview process,” says Latiesha Cook, Beer Kulture’s president and CEO. “People will say they believe in diversity, equity and inclusion, but if all of your employees and all of your friends are of just one demographic, then you aren’t. If you say you are about these things, you should be doing these things.
"We collaborate with people that are aligned with our mission," she adds. Since transitioning into a nonprofit last summer during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Beer Kulture has worked with just a handful of breweries, including Florida’s Green Bench Brewing (whose co-founder is on Beer Kulture’s board of directors), Cloudwater Brew Company in England, Second Shift Brewing in Missouri, and the Bronx Brewery in New York City.
Primitive’s owners, Lisa and Brandon Boldt, got in touch with Cook through Beer Kulture’s website and “expressed direct concern,” Cook says. “People don’t always know how to help. ... They partnered with us specifically because of that want.” After interviewing, “we fell in love with them,” she adds. “They are a good group of people, and their intentions are in the right place.”
Lisa Boldt says she and Brandon had been following Beer Kulture for a couple of years, so when the organization started doing nonprofit work, they wanted to help right away. “We excitedly interviewed with Latiesha, total badass and complete sweetheart, and formed an instant friendship," she says. "After a couple Zoom meetings, they welcomed us as partners.”
Peach on a Beach is the first of two collaborations between Beer Kulture and Primitive, with all proceeds supporting Beer Kulture’s scholarship program, which provides funding for people of color who want to study for and take the Certified Cicerone Program test. Beer Kulture also has a job board with positions from companies looking to increase their diversity, and has helped provide funding for a beer journalism scholarship.
And finally, as part of its effort to bring more people of color into the beer industry, the organization hires artists like Devon Blow, a Los Angeles-based designer who created the label for the Peach on a Beach packaging.
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