An innovative new paid internship program recently announced by the Bronx Brewery addresses one of the craft brewing industry’s most glaring issues, its lack of diversity. If successful, it could provide a framework that others in the trade could use to expand their businesses’ scope and reach.
By partnering with Beer Kulture, the St Petersburg, Florida, based non-profit dedicated to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the craft beer space, they have created a program that is explicitly targeting individuals underserved in the industry. Kicking off in March, the program will offer a two-month paid internship to six individuals in 2021 from BIPOC and recently incarcerated communities. Bronx Connect will provide the pool of incarcerated individuals.
The program only adds to the momentum that the craft community has been building over the last few years. In 2018, the Brewers Association trade group appointed their first-ever diversity czar to address issues in the industry. Then last year saw one of the most successful collaboration beer projects ever, Black Is Beautiful, that shined a bright light on the problem.
Diversity in craft beer is an issue that needs attention according to a 2019 survey of its members released by the Brewers Association. It showed that 88% of the brewery owners responding were white and that only 7% of them fell under the BIPOC label, while only 1% were Black.
“By partnering with an organization like ours, it gives the brewery the chance to tap into a market that is already there,” says Latiesha Cook, President and CEO of Beer Kulture. “You are bringing in a whole new demographic and entirely untapped market that is not buying your beer right now. They don’t know about it. Plus, when you bring new people in, you get different flavors, different aspects, and different views in your business, that only helps you be better and have more success.”
By building off their successful five-year-old internship program, the Bronx Brewery uses a system that they know works and has proven results. Their head brewer Manny Salvatori is a graduate of it. While in the program, each participant will work in all aspects of operations, from brewing to creative concept and recipe development. They also will get to write a recipe for the Up and Comers limited-release series.
To fund the program, they reached out to their suppliers. They also used the proceeds from a recently launched collaboration beer with Beer Kulture to pay the first participants a $2,000 stipend that they will receive as part of the internship.
As a regional brewery selling beer in several states, Bronx Brewery has already reaped dividends from the program. They have seen an uptick in social media interest since announcing the program. It all aligns with their mission, says their president and co-founder Damian Brown. “We have been deeply invested in our community from day one. Beer for us has been all about bringing people together, so when we realized that we could utilize our intern program as a way to effect change and bring more people into the industry that normally would not have a way in, we knew we had to so it. Beer Kulture has been such an inspiration and leading voice in this effort, and we couldn’t think of a better partner for this project.”
If all goes well with the program, plans call for continuation beyond this year, with long-term plans to spread it to other breweries. Beer Kulture’s experience landing employment for underserved individuals in the industry through their job board has given them a platform to open discussions with others.
While there still is a long way to go to change the makeup of an industry that proudly points to its rebellious roots, one born for a desire for something different, this seems like a step in the right direction.