Beer Influencers Discuss Sexism And Representation In The Industry


Beer has a troubled history when it comes to accepting and representing women. Sexist labels and ads made by men to sell beer to men were so pervasive for so long that the situation demanded a 2017 intervention from the Brewer’s Association. But the inherent sexism and misogyny of an industry that has historically been dominated by male voices (particularly white male voices) has gone beyond the obvious objectification of the female form and bled into how women are regarded when they step into roles as writers, influencers, brewers, and owners in the beer space. This became painfully obvious during a recent episode of the Brewbound podcast.

A little back story: On July 8th, Uproxx published a list of beer influencers on Instagram that we believe are worth following. Our list was made of stone-cold experts — brewers, writers, photographers, Cicerones, and genuine beer lovers. It also reflected our own desires for increased visibility of diversity in beer and was made up of seven women and three men (or male-based collectives). On July 11th, the Brewbound Podcast, a beer industry-focused pod from BevNET, opened with banter between the hosts, challenging the credentials of the women we’d featured.

It did not land well. The duo dismissed the handles One Hoppy Lady, Big World Small Girl, Beer Bitty, and Is Beer A Carb specifically as being not worth following, because, “it’s all chicks who basically take photos of themselves in like low-cut tops with beer.”

Clearly, the two Brewbound hosts hadn’t read why we chose those accounts for a follow — they are run by a certified Cicerone, an industry beer writer, a food and beer pairing expert, and a nationally-lauded brewer, respectively. Each one is distinctly qualified, while also putting time into their photos because Instagram is, quite obviously, an aesthetic-driven platform.

Via Big World Small Girl

About a week after the podcast aired, beer lover and writer Justine Daroci (@literally_justine) heard the episode and sounded the alarm — posting a transcription of the podcast in her Instagram story and making sure the beer influencers mentioned knew what was being said about them by one of the industry’s largest outlets. The story blew up as the female beer influencers featured in our original article rallied together and issued their own responses to the episode (which, ironically was focused on “diversity and inclusion in the beer industry”).

The backlash worked. On July 22nd, BevNET issued an apology, pulled the opening banter from the podcast, and put the show on hiatus. Co-host Justin Kendall went on an apology tour and personally reached out to those involved (including me and Uproxx’s Life Editor, Steve Bramucci). Co-host Chris Furnari was let go. The whole story caught the attention of the online beer community and Good Beer Hunting — one of the industry’s largest and most widely-respected outlets — covered it in a recent podcast episode.

When the dust cleared, the story had come to define the beer zeitgeist of Summer ’19 and started a much-needed conversation about how men perceive and treat women in the beer industry. To keep that dialogue moving, we reached out to a few of the influencers, brewers, writers, and Cicerones from our original post to discuss the matter further. Bella (One Hoppy Lady), Caitlin (Big World Small Girl), Megan Stone (Is Beer A Carb), Melis (The Girl With Beer), Ray (Craftbeeray), and Emilie (La petite Biere) were all eager to share their experiences working in beer and how they believe women are received, treated, and viewed.

The endgame here is simple: Hopefully, by continuing this discussion, we can help make the beer industry a more welcoming place for everyone.

Beer — craft beer especially — has long been perceived as a boys club. Is that your impression? How do you combat that? What is the role of allies in fighting that?

Bella: Unfortunately, beer is still very much a boys club. I’ve been discriminated against as a woman many times, both by men and women. I’ve had times where I was excluded by men because I was the only female. I’ve had times that I’ve been excluded by women because I wasn’t the “right kind of girl” that those women thought could be involved in beer.

When I was younger, I thought I could combat that with knowledge and experience. I thought that if I knew more than my male colleagues, they would respect me. Or I thought I would gain respect after years of experience. But the type of people who don’t respect women don’t care how qualified you are, they simply want to hate you — as proven by the Brewbound debacle. You can’t combat that.

However, I can say that having allies is extremely important. It might not change how those specific people feel about women in the industry, but it certainly lets them know that they will not get away with those unwarranted and hateful comments anymore.

Caitlin: Yes, I feel that way sometimes. Though it has changed greatly over the past few years. I’ve seen the diversity in taprooms change quite drastically and I think that’s a great thing! I’m a member of Pink Boots Society so I get to surround myself with awesome, professional women in the industry and I never take that for granted.

Megan: I think that’s true at some breweries but not all of them. I believe it’s very prevalent on the consumer side. Think about how many labels or advertisements you see that sexually objectify women and are geared towards men. I combat this issue by continuing to do my thing in beer and occasionally calling them out when I feel it’s necessary. I try to view the situations as educational opportunities.

Allies are able to help educate people and spread the word too. The more supportive people are, and the less they condone the behavior, the more it’ll start to fade away (hopefully).

Melis: I think women are starting to take up more space in craft beer, whether as professionals in the industry, consumers, or content creators. But it’s still very much a boy’s club. I remember attending beer festivals, like four years ago, where there were hardly any women. My friends and I would joke that this is the only time in public we don’t have a line for the women’s restroom. Now, I’m happy to wait in line because there are more women enjoying a beer at festivals or breweries.

However, the people on top, the decision-makers, are still mostly men. Even though there are more women in craft beer we still have to prove ourselves. As content creators, influencers, and bloggers especially, we have to show our credentials to have a voice while men get to post however they want. Some of the criticisms we get when reviewing a beer are we don’t write enough about it, we are more of the focus than the beer. On the flip side, when we do write out longer reviews, we hear “it’s too long, didn’t read, I’m bored.” Meanwhile, there are accounts run by men who literally write the name of the beer and 30 hashtags, here’s an example.

As for the role of allies — it’s to call out misogynistic behavior, staying silent or saying “haters gonna hate” isn’t helping anyone. Honestly, some people don’t know what they are doing is sexist or misogynistic because it’s normalized behavior. So educating them is key and, sadly, when another man speaks up he is more likely to be listened to. The same thing happens with internalized misogyny and sexism by women. I’ve faced more of this working in beer, being a consumer, or an online content creator more than I have heard sexist things from men.

Emilie: I had long thought beer was more a man’s thing than a woman’s. Then one day, I had the curiosity to do research on the history of beer only to discover that historically beer was mostly a woman’s business. Because hundreds of years ago when men were going to war or hunting, women took care of the house, the food, and the beer. So, since then, my perception changed.

At first, I felt very lonely as a girl loving beer. But, by doing some research on Instagram and the internet, I realized there are a lot of women working in beer; more than we think. I try to fight this stereotype by pushing on the vintage, girlie, slow-fashion side as well as food pairing and travel. By taking a more mainstream approach, I try to attract men and women from all different lifestyles to ultimately get them interested in craft beer so the movement grows bigger and is even more diversified.

We all need to stand together and focus on our love of craft beer. We need to spread the word that commercial beer is just a small part of of the flavors that beer has to offer. If we stand together, we will have access to craft beer everywhere.

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“Then it just like, goes to sh*t and it’s all chicks who basically take photos of themselves in like low-cut tops with beer… It’s like One Hoppy Lady, Big World Small Girl, Beer Bitty, Is Beer a Carb. I mean it’s like, you know, girls in tight clothing and bathing suits and low cut… apparently those are the ones worth following.” – @brewboundfurn . . Those were the words from @Brewbound’s Chris Furnari in response to an article written by Uproxx regarding the “Beer Influencers Actually Worth Following on Instagram”. Chris liked the list and agreed with it until he got to the women. 🤦‍♀️ . . Also, a HUGE thank you to @literally_justine for bringing these comments to light. 👏👏👏 Swipe to see the transcripts of his comments. . . I was one of the women he listed as taking nothing but photos of them in low-cut tops with beer. And at first I was like, “What?! ME??? That’s not me.” But then my next line of thinking was, “So what if it was??? So what if I choose to show more cleavage? Does that invalidate my opinion? Why should it make him, or anyone else respect me less?” . . Then here’s my next problem, actually my biggest problem… Let me tell you about the specific women he listed… Joy of @beerbitty, has been blogging about and working in the craft beer industry for nearly a decade. Bella of @onehoppylady is a Certified Cicerone Beer Server! 👏 And finally, Meg of @isbeeracarb is a professional brewer with a resume that includes Modern Times! These are the type of women that Chris Furnari finds a problem with. From his misogynistic comments, it’s mainly because of what we *wear* in the photos we share with craft beer. . . Last I checked, craft beer didn’t have a dress code. 🙄His comments are toxic and flat out sexist. And for them to come from the leadership of what was regarded as a respected voice in the industry, just makes it that much more upsetting.

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Why do you think men in the industry are so resistant to female voices or why do they doubt the knowledge and skill of women in the space? Is it standard-issue patriarchy or is it more than that?

Bella: It’s the same as with any other aspect of life when a group of people hates an entire other group of people simply for being different … that’s fear. It’s insecurity. The “top dog” and the privileged want to remain the privileged group. They want to hold their dominance and power over the industry.

Megan: I think that’s a good question to ask a man in the industry. But I would speculate that it’s because that behavior has been tolerated for such a long time. In the past society has taught us that certain jobs are for men and others for women. That women aren’t strong. That they can’t hang with the guys.

Ray: I really feel like the males who are resistant to women in beer are a minority who makes a lot of noise. Most of us welcome women to the scene and encourage women (and everyone for that matter) to continue to explore craft beer and get involved in this journey. This whole situation reminds me of the time years ago when I had to use my platform to express my support of women in the beer scene. Check this post out from 2014.

Melis: We see this in every industry. I started my career in oil and gas, another male-dominated field. I’ve had an older white man tell me “honey the women are sitting over there” when I tried to sit at the same table as him at a networking event. In beer and in every industry, women’s bodies have been used as marketing tools and men have profited from them, the beer Instagram platform has given women a chance to have autonomy over our bodies but if we make money from this then we’re attention whores. Our value is once again reduced to the way we look and our bodies.

Emilie: I think it’s a standard patriarchy issue. I’ve been working in the TV and movie industry for over 15 years and I’ve seen microaggressions from men towards me or my colleagues. I’ve even had to slap a man in the face at events or clubs because he was grabbing my ass or one of my breasts. Some guys believe that women who wear more revealing clothes are girls who want to be touched or just wants attention. And that comes from decades of misinformation where society if automatically associating the women’s body with sexuality. And even if we take the beer industry itself, since the 50s or earlier, the ads are so sexist. Women’s bodies were always objectified or the women were reduced to the roles of a serving housewife, you know?

Let’s talk about the Brewbound debacle and how that made you feel. Why was that situation such a powder keg?

Caitlin: First, this wasn’t a live podcast, this was recorded, edited, uploaded, and shared with a large audience. The casual, humorous tone in which the hosts shared their misogynistic beliefs is most unsettling.

The fact that one person found this and shared it, then it went viral, then it was addressed, is unsettling as well. How many people listened to that episode and heard that conversation and didn’t think anything of it? Brewbound is a big publication, surely there were 100’s of listens. Then, how many other episodes are there where they casually expressed sexist or discriminatory comments like this?

Second, the specific women he called out are actually pretty flipping legitimate. As in, they’re all in the industry on a professional level and accredited. Weirdly, I’m the ‘least credited’ of all them but I hardly ever show cleavage, that’s just me. I don’t like being in front of the camera.

So to me, the fact that he listed those four specific handles, I’m assuming those were just the first or only ones that came to his mind, just shows, in my eyes, that he views all women like this in the craft beer industry and he doesn’t give a shit what any of them do.

Bella: Honestly, when I first saw it, I rolled my eyes. I’m used to it by now, but that doesn’t make it right. There was a part of me that has grown somewhat callous to these things. However, I was prompted to make a statement because I know some of these women personally. There are some of these women that I’ve spoken to online. There are others that I’ve worked with before. I knew these women were all genuinely interested and knowledgeable about beer. And they’re great people.

I think this specific situation was a powder keg because 1) Brewbound is somewhat of an industry publication, and 2) They made all these unresearched accusations and comments about women within the industry. This list was a legitimate list of women who work within the industry, professional brewers. I, myself, have worked within the industry for years from sales roles to marketing. I’m a salaried beer writer. I know what I’m talking about.

Not that women need these credentials to be respected, but the wrongness of Chris’ comments were just too jarringly sexist to ignore. He picked the wrong set of women to comment on, strong women who’ve dealt with this shit in their professional careers, and weren’t about to let some misinformed sexist comments slide.

Megan: It made me very angry. Any kind of discrimination does. But to be personally spoken about in such a way, to have myself and how hard I’ve worked in my career reduced to a pair of boobs and a pretty face — I was livid. I think it was a combination of things. The fact that it was blatant sexism, said on a well-known podcast, and involved people with large audiences of supporters. I also feel like for some women it may have struck a nerve. Maybe it’s something they’ve dealt within their own lives, and saw an opportunity to speak up about the subject.

Melis: I found it especially hilarious that this happened on a podcast episode about diversity and inclusion. As I said on my Instagram post, if you want the craft beer community to be more inclusive and diverse, don’t shit on the people who bring diversity to it. The only “legitimate” people he deemed worthy of being on the list were the two out of three men — the third wasn’t even mentioned.

The others, besides being women, also come from different ethnic backgrounds, ages, and body shapes. I’m a Middle Eastern immigrant woman. My third-biggest following on Instagram comes from Turkey. My YouTube comments on The Girl with Beer channel is half in Turkish I’m so happy to connect with them and introduce them to craft beer. The culture I grew up in is way different, especially when it comes to alcohol.

Ray: It was quite a disappointing thing to hear. I believe people who have a platform that influences others have a bigger responsibility to set an example and should think twice before saying things that may offend others.

Emilie: I experienced my first wave of bullying a few months after starting my blog. A Facebook user took a photo of me to ask other beer drinkers what they thought about my clothes. The administrator of the post had to take it down after a few days because there were about 800 or 900 comments and 80 percent of them were negative. I had read them all. I cried for days and felt so alone. I felt like the only girl in the world who loved beer. I never confronted the bullies and I kind of let it slide because I was too scared. So when there was the incident with Brewbound, I could not be quiet again.

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Apologies from the hosts

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How do you feel now that all the apologies have been issued? Do you feel like that’s a resolution or not quite? If not, what should happen next?

Caitlin: I don’t feel that the issue at Brewbound has been properly addressed. Yeah, issue some apologies and kill the show, but what about the staff? What about the podcast hosts? Do they deep down view women in craft beer this way? I don’t know.

And let the record show, I never wanted Chris to be fired. I wanted him to learn and understand why those words and beliefs are hurtful, and straight out wrong. Chris was the one person we didn’t receive personally apologies from. I’d like to see him and Justin sit down with some of the females in craft beer that they don’t believe to be “worthy” and talk it out. I’d love to explain to the two why women should be taken seriously in craft beer — whether we decide to show our cleavage or not.

Bella: No, I don’t feel like this was a resolution. I’m glad that Brewbound made a public apology. Both the CEO and Justin reached out personally too. I do believe it was something that wouldn’t have been approved if it was being monitored by the CEO. I even believe that Justin may not have agreed with Chris’ comments if he had been prepped on the “banter” portion of the podcast. However, employees are a reflection of a company. Unfortunately, Melis found several anti-influencer and anti-feminist comments/tweets all over Chris’ social media. Being a podcaster for such a publication, I think his personal social media should’ve been monitored by the company long before this debacle.

I think an amazing solution would be to add a woman to the podcast, add women to their public image, add women to their company’s voice. They said they want to put systems in place to make sure this never happens again. I think they’d have to be much more considerate of women if they had to have these discussions with women. How differently would that “banter” section have gone if a woman was the host?

Megan: To be completely honest, I wasn’t satisfied with Brewbound’s initial apology. I felt like everyone named in the podcast should have been addressed in it. I felt like we also all deserved individual apologies. Which we eventually got after everyone continued to complain. But I do appreciate the CEO of Brewbound and Justin reaching out. Chris can fuck off, though. No one received an apology from him.

Next, I think Brewbound should do something positive or supportive of women in the community. Start there.

Melis: They seemed super forced but Justin did reach out by email to apologize individually. Although his apology was very similarly worded with the ones the others received, I did appreciate it wasn’t a copy and paste. I hope they can learn from this situation and take action to grow. I didn’t find Chris’ sincere at all, especially since he started with “The conversation I led was in poor taste and is not in line with the type of content I’ve worked to create over the last 8.5 years.” A tweet from 2015 and an IG comment from last week I think says differently. It just sounded like he was sorry that he got called out by a bunch of chicks in low cut shirts with “no influence” and this went viral.

I think people can learn and change. I am a forgiving person but the person apologizing actually has to mean it.

Ray: I feel the apologies issued are just standard damage control tactics and not very genuine. What’s next? Absolutely nothing. If we continue to talk about their podcast, it will only give them extra PR. Prior to this incident, I had no idea they even had a podcast.

Emilie: On my blog, as in life, I try to focus on the positive side. I take the lemons that life offers me and make the best lemonade possible with it. I also believe that everyone makes mistakes and, in that particular case, I find that the mistake is forgivable. I think that… let’s call them “scandals”… are helping to raise awareness and educate society and that’s the way that I believe that change is possible. That’s also why we need to continue to denounce when this kind of situation happens.