By Kerri Shadid
Instagram influencers play a major role in all aspects of our culture today, and beer culture is no exception. Many individuals have garnered thousands of followers by highlighting craft beer in their photos. These influencers have become the face of craft beer and what they post says something about how the industry is perceived, including what its priorities are.
Instagram beer influencers are holding the microphone, so what is the message they are sharing? And most importantly, are they doing enough to pass the microphone to people of color, women and LGBTQIA+ individuals in the industry.
We founded Equity Brewing Co. with the expressed intention of working to increase equity, inclusion and diversity among both beer industry professionals and craft beer drinkers. So, of course we are interested in exploring ways all members of the craft beer community, including Instagram influencers, can increase equity.
As we discussed in our blog, “How Will the Pandemic Affect Diversity in Craft Beer?” the beer industry is not diverse. However, there seems to be more diversity among beer influencers. Could this help change the craft beer industry as a whole? Or should influencers be doing more to intentionally promote diversity, inclusion and equity in order to create industry-wide change?
Are beer influencers using their platform to serve diversity, inclusion and equity?
A number of articles recently have highlighted diverse Instagram influencers, which is an important step in making the industry less white male dominated. For example, Uproxx featured a number of women and several people of color in its article “The ‘Beer Influencers’ You Should Be Following On Instagram.” Men’s Health ran an article entitled “30 Female Beer Lovers You Must Follow On Instagram.” The beer blog “Big World Small Girl” ran a post entitled “Black Beer Writers, Instagrammers, Creators and More That You Should Follow, Support, and Love.” And the Beer Connoisseur featured Black People Love Beer and Crafty Beer Mavin in its article on three impactful beer social media influencers. (Unfortunately, the Uproxx and Men’s Health articles both created controversy, which may suggest that the industry continues to resist diversifying.)
However, little (if anything) has been written about what beer influencers of all walks of life are doing on their accounts to intentionally promote diversity. Although showing a more diverse face is an important step, it may not be as impactful as posting equity-oriented content.
We do not presume to have all the answers, or to tell influencers how best to run their accounts. But we do think it is important to raise questions around equity and, to the best of our ability, offer some ideas for how this visible side of the craft beer industry could advocate for greater inclusion throughout the industry.
What are influencers currently doing to promote diversity, inclusion and equity?
The truth is that most Instagram influencers, including many who are women or people of color, do not expressly advocate for changing the industry to be more welcoming for all or post content that celebrates steps to diversify the industry.
However, there are several influencers who are and we would like to give a big “high five” to those who are using their platform to advocate for inclusion.
Black Beer Chick has organized several initiatives to promote diversity in the industry. (Check out her website for more on this amazing woman!) She raised money to support minority women seeking Certified Beer Server certification (and exceeded her fundraising goal) by selling her “More Bridges Less Barriers” t-shirt. She also started the account Black Girls Drink Beer Too in order to create space for women of color in the craft beer community. The account profiles women of color, asking them about their journey into drinking craft beer and their favorite beers and breweries.
Beer With Nat recently posted about the Road to 100 scholarship initiative that Black Beer Chick started and of which she is a part. Beer With Nat wrote, “Over the next 12 weeks, the incredible women in this photo - all Certified and Advanced Cicerones from across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK - will be working together to mentor 100 minority women to help them achieve their Certified Beer Server Certification.”
Aristotle Green is also active in posting about race and social issues. He recently posted about #breathingconversations and thanked his followers for committing “to a mission bigger than beer.” Crowns and Hops, a Black-Owned Craft Beer Brand & Brewery, is dedicated to using social media to promoting racial equity in the craft beer industry.
Black Beer Culture is raising awareness of “a #newnarrative in craft beer.” According to Uproxx, the account has “been instrumental in bringing a wider awareness to Black American brewers and beer lovers.” They highlight the people behind the beers while as well as events such as Fresh Fest.
A number of influencers had one or two posts promoting the Black Is Beautiful beer, which is “a collaborative effort to raise awareness for the injustices people of color face daily and raise funds for police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.” Is Beer A Carb also posted a link in her profile to a Black Lives Matters webpage.
Is Beer A Carb features other women in several of her photographs. We noticed a post from Veenat Nora promoting a beer brewed by women. And some female influencers show themselves brewing beer.
Is Beer A Carb had at least one post celebrating Pride, even after the official month was over. It was difficult to tell from a bird’s eye review of these accounts if they were promoting LGBTQIA+ individuals in the beer industry. But little jumped out to us.
An account that strives to welcome women is Women’s Beer Collective, which was expressly created to educate women about craft beer. And with 21,500 followers, it seems like women are responding!
According to Uproxx, Grasso What (who created the #WomeninCraft video series) provides a great education about female brewers on her feed. But she doesn’t include much information on each beer, so it can be hard to know which are from women-run breweries.
In short, although some accounts take small steps to promote diversity through what they post on their feeds, more is needed to move the needle of the craft beer industry.
Gurl Lost posted recently on equity issues, while noting that many in the Black community “have been feeling both tired and exhausted by the issue because it has been going on for so long.” This raises another question—who should be promoting equity? Should it be up to Instagram influencers of color to use their accounts to call for greater inclusion and diversity, or should white Influencers take up the fight? Should female influencers be called upon to feature female brewers, or should male influencers as well? We at Equity Brewing Co. believe that promoting more inclusion and diversity is everyone’s responsibility.
What could all Instagram beer influencers be doing to better support diversity, inclusion and equity?
It is everyone’s job to make the craft beer industry, and our wider society, more equitable. Those who enjoy more privilege must take on more responsibility for advocating for change. Society is watching Instagram influencers, giving them an invaluable platform to pass the mic to those who are making the craft beer industry more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
One major way all Instagram beer influencers could have an actual impact on the industry is by consistently featuring beer made by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ individuals. But it is important that influencers go beyond simply posting a photo of these beers to actually highlighting the diverse individuals behind them. As it stands, this does not seem to be happening on a regular basis.
For example, Craft BeeRay has little information about the beer featured in each post other the name of the brewery behind it. Similarly, The Girl With Beer, one of the most highly followed accounts with nearly 89,000 followers, provides great tasting notes on some beers, but again little about the makers. Many other feeds are similar. So, they may feature underrepresented beer makers, but it’s hard to know unless you make the effort to look the beermaker up.
A major exception is The Beer Trekker, which is all about the people behind the beer. Although his globally-focused feed does feature plenty of “white guys with beards,” there are some women and people of color. Could there be more? Absolutely. But at least this popular account is doing more work than many to raise awareness about non-white non-dudes making great craft beer.
Failing to show who is making the beers they feature may lead most beer influencers’ followers to assume that any given beer was made by “a white guy with a beard.” Simply doing more to shine a light on the beer makers, especially those who are underrepresented in the craft beer industry, could inspire more women, people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals to drink craft beer and even start making it. We are always more likely to feel like we can do something if we see people with whom we identify doing it.
The bottom line is that Instagram beer influencers have a great deal of power over the way the craft beer industry is perceived. And perception plays a big role when it comes to identity issues. With power comes responsibility. We hope that more and more beer influencers will make it a top priority to promote those who have been traditionally marginalized in beer. By doing so, they will change the face of an industry that for too long has looked very male and very white.
Activist influencers provide inspiration for what all craft beer influencers could do to actively promote equity and contribute to changing the entire industry.
First, the most important step is to draw attention to diverse individuals working in the industry. This means not only featuring beers made by women, people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals, but featuring the individuals themselves! A photo of a beer without any background information on the makers will not help diverse individuals feel more welcomed at the craft beer table. But seeing a photo and reading a bio of someone with whom they can identify will.
Second, all influencers could routinely highlight inclusive initiatives in their feed. We saw this in the many influencers who posted about the Black Is Beautiful beer, but this is not the only diversity-oriented initiative happening in craft beer right now. However, a quick scan of top influencers’ feeds may leave you thinking that it is. Influencers could make a big impact by proactively monitoring for events and initiatives designed to increase equity in craft beer and posting about all of them. There is no reason every influencer couldn’t celebrate Fresh Fest; call attention to the activities of organizations such as Crafted For All, The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling, Craft x EDU, and the Pink Boots Society; and promote opportunities for diverse individuals such as the Road to 100 Scholarship Initiative. Influencers can take it a step further and explicitly advocate for changing the industry in their captions on diversity-oriented posts. If this happened, the face of the industry would quickly change.
Finally, influencers could step beyond their feed to directly impact industry initiatives. For example, they could donate a portion of their advertising/sponsorship proceeds to scholarship funds for BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women to study beer and brewing or help facilitate diverse hiring at breweries with which they work. We know this is a next-level call-to-action, but activist influencers like Black Beer Chick have shown us that it can be done. Imagine what it would mean for diverse individuals wanting to find a place in craft beer to have all influencers contribute not only awareness, but also money and time, to making their dreams a reality.