The people working and drinking at a brewery should be as varied as its beer selection.
That’s the opinion of the Pittsburgh Brewery and Taproom Diversity Council, a group of industry professionals who want to include, celebrate and elevate underrepresented groups — such as women, people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community — in the city’s craft beer scene.
The seven-member committee, which formed in October 2020, is made up of Lauren Hughes and Mikey Orellano of Necromancer Brewing Co.; Dennis Guy of First Sip Brew Box; Adam Bey and Sydney Mealey of 412 Brewery; Aadam Soorma of Trace Brewing; and longtime homebrewer Kevin Stewart.
The group has been meeting virtually every month to brainstorm ideas to promote the accomplishments of minorities in the industry. They’re also planning some cool projects and events for 2021.
First thing on tap: She Knows Beer, a simultaneous beer release dedicated to females in the industry. It will be similar to the Black is Beautiful stouts created in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Breweries across the city will be invited to put their own spin on a sour beer base recipe and donate a portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit organization of their choosing.
Hughes, a member of the Pink Boots Society and Master Brewers Association and head brewer at the soon-to-open Necromancer Brewing Co. in Ross Township, says she has to deal with a lot of “mansplaining.” Random Facebook users, who may or may not have any brewing experience, send unsolicited messages instructing her how to craft certain beers.
Mealey, who runs the taproom at 412 Brewery on the North Side, can relate. She says customers often ask to speak to a man when inquiring about beers offered by the Western Avenue establishment, which recently changed ownership.
The first round of She Knows Beer brews are expected to drop in May and will continue to be released on a quarterly basis.
Another project in the works is Culture Shock, a beer brewed to coincide with a food event held toward the end of the year. The committee will team with a local food truck or eatery and pair grub with the beer.
The council would also like to establish a scholarship program for those who want to break into the brewing business. More information will be released as the group finds its footing and funding.
The council is planting the seeds for growth in Pittsburgh’s craft beer industry, which is why their logo features the leaves and cones of the eastern hemlock, Pennsylvania’s official tree. They know there’s a demand for more diversity, as evidenced by the success of Pittsburgh-based Fresh Fest, the country’s first Black beer festival.
“We’re laying the groundwork,” Bey says, “we’re not growing a tree overnight.”
The NEXT Beer is a new column highlighting different brews, breweries and events in and around Pittsburgh. If you’ve got a beer-related news tip, send me an email. Cheers!