By Hollie Stephens
We at Equity Brewing love discovering other organizations that are promoting equity and inclusion in the beer industry. We hope that by highlighting some of these organizations, we will help build a strong community of advocates working to make the industry more diverse and welcoming to all. The more we support each other, the stronger we all become!
To that end, beer writer Hollie Stephens will feature individuals and organizations that are working to bring diversity to the beer industry in her “Diversity in Brewing Blog Series.” This week, she speaks to Lily Waite, founder of The Queer Brewing Project.
Affecting real change within the beer world begins with acknowledging the stark reality of where we are starting from. “The industry needs to recognise that it is a homogenous bubble” says Lily Waite, founder of The Queer Brewing Project. “Without visible representation, its homogeneity—white, straight, cis, able-bodied men—won’t change”. Lily is a queer trans woman. She founded The Queer Brewing Project with a mission to promote a greater sense of diversity, acceptance, and visibility within the beer industry, whilst raising money for vital LGBTQ charities.
The Queer Brewing Project launched in April last year, marking the occasion with the release of its very first beer Queer Royale, a blackcurrant pale ale fermented with champagne yeast. This inaugural beer was brewed with Affinity Brewing in Bermondsey in south east London; a part of the city home to some of the country’s most innovative and best-loved new breweries. “Seeing a taproom buzzing with people who’d turned up for the launch—predominantly people I didn’t know—and then seeing the social media presence from people drinking at the forty or so bars participating in the nationwide launch was pretty special” says Lily. Her project quickly gained momentum, and in the fall of 2019, Lily took a trip across the USA to collaborate with more breweries, including Brewery Bhavana in North Carolina, Big Rip Brewing in Missouri, and Our Mutual Friend in Colorado. “There were a number of moments at which I had to pinch myself” Lily admitted. “The whole trip was shrouded in a state of disbelief.”
It’s clear that beer businesses need to work hard to create a more diverse environment, and I’m interested to hear Lily’s thoughts about what beer drinkers themselves can do to help foster inclusion, and hold the businesses to whom they offer their patronage to high standards. Lily believes that beer can be used to impact real change, and she is clear that the responsibility for this change does not lay solely at the feet of the businesses within the beer industry, but also everyone who engages with it, including beer drinkers. “The industry will not be devoid of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, or any other prejudice until society is—and that’s a long way to go. Beer fans need to work to be anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-sexist, and anti-ableist. Simply saying ‘we’re inclusive’ doesn’t do shit.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has naturally meant that the last few months have been a little different from the travel-filled first year for Lily with The Queer Brewing Project. I’m keen to find out what her priorities are for the year ahead. “If you’d asked me a few months ago, I’d have said looking to expand, to bring new people on board, and to brew more beers than in the first year! Now, after, well, everything that’s happened, my plan is a little more modest.” Lily emphasizes that more brewery collaborations are on the cards, even if they are remote. “The benefit to this, of course, is that it allows for more international collaborations!”