Sep 12, 2023 - Food and Drink

Charlotte breweries are working to make the craft beer industry more inclusive

Weathered Souls

Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Charlotte’s craft beer industry has historically been primarily white and male-dominant. But a couple of local breweries want to change that by training more women and people of color on how to open a brewery from scratch.

Both Weathered Souls Brewing and Town Brewing Co. have programs aimed at diversifying craft brewing.

Why it matters: Charlotte brewers are at the forefront of an industry-wide acknowledgment that something needs to change.

  • “By actively encouraging and supporting people of color in their pursuit of brewing careers, we aim to create a more inclusive and vibrant craft beer landscape,” says Brandon Stirewalt, director of sales and business operations at Town Brewing.   

Driving the news: Weathered Souls’ co-owner Marcus Baskerville had a vision when he expanded the popular San Antonio-based brewery to Charlotte: to give minorities and women access to equipment and information about beer, he told us.

  • That vision will come to life this fall, when the first cohort begins the Harriet Baskerville Incubation program. It’s named after Baskerville’s grandmother, who used to brew during prohibition.

“The perfect candidate would be a young person of an underrepresented demographic that wants to get into the professional aspect of brewing, or ownership of a brewery,” Baskerville said. 

How it works: Any woman and person of color from anywhere in the United States can apply to the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program at HBIP.beer.

  • No prior knowledge of the brewery industry is required. There is no cost to participate.
  • During the 30-day Charlotte program, participants will be taught everything they need to know to start a brewery from industry experts — from the technical to the financial side.
  • Once the program is complete, interns will go through an externship program with a partner brewery.

“We always talk about having a seat at the table, but the easiest way of having a seat is to have your own table,” Baskerville said. 

Zoom out: In 2020, Town Brewing introduced The Many Faces Initiative’s brewery internship program, a 10-week paid internship offering mentorship and immersive training for people from underrepresented communities who want to pursue careers in the craft brewing industry. 

  • Since its start in 2020, four people have graduated from the program. Its most recent grad, Brittany Makitan, is now the new assistant brewer at 760 Craft Works in Huntersville.
You can find Makitan’s brew There Gose My Baby in limited 16oz-four packs and on draft for a limited time at Town Brewing in Wesley Heights. Photo: Courtesy of Town Brewing

Yes, but: In Charlotte, people often complain that the city has too many breweries. Many say that breweries here have long catered to white customers, and that breweries don’t always create welcoming environments for customers from all backgrounds, we reported in 2020.

The big picture: In recent years, the brewery industry has struggled to address racism in its ranks, and an outpouring of stories emerged from women about sexism, harassment and assault, Axios’ John Frank wrote.

  • “This scourge of discrimination and inequity has festered and held us back,” Bob Pease, CEO of the Boulder-based Brewers Association, told attendees at the Craft Brewers Conference in 2021. 

[Related Axios story: Charlotte breweries join global movement with Brave Noise beer]

By the numbers: Of the 40+ breweries in the area, Charlotte has one Black-owned brewery with another on the way.

  • 93.5% of brewery owners nationwide are white and 75.6% are men, according to 2021 data from the Brewers Association.
  • Only 2.2% nationwide were owned by someone of “Hispanic, Latina -o, or of Spanish Origin,” the survey found. It did not break Hispanic ownership down by gender, Axios Latino’s Russell Contreras wrote. 
  • Yet, the survey found that 23.7% of all breweries were partially female-owned. Only 2.9% were entirely woman-owned.

Go deeper: Complete list and map of Charlotte’s 40+ local breweries, plus the most popular beer at each

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