Craft ale's #MeToo moment: Are breweries equal enough?
- Credit: James Beeson
The craft ale sector is having a moment of reflection, breweries have said, after one of the most prominent names in the industry was accused by former employees of "giving weight to sexist and misogynistic" behaviour.
BrewDog founder James Watt said he will learn from criticisms of a "toxic culture" in his company, which has stockists and bars across Norfolk and Waveney.
Miranda Hudson, managing director of north Norfolk-based Duration Brewing, said that although misogynistic behaviour was not limited to the craft ale industry, the revelations had already prompted changes in behaviour.
"I think the notion that this sector is particularly sexist isn't correct - the vast majority of people I meet are politically aware, they're open to change and they focus on quality. However, there are those who are few and far between where old habits die hard and I absolutely believe the whistle-blowers who are raising concerns," she said.
"I'm really glad this industry is having a #MeToo moment but I'm conscious of how we go about it. If the lowest common denominator is blame then it creates divides when at the end of the day we need to be addressing prejudice in all its forms.
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"Personally I haven't encountered it on the industry side, it's more so on the customer-facing side. I have people asking me if I do the marketing, if I can fetch my husband Bates, who's the brewer, to tell them about the beer.
"I find it's very rarely a vicious comment and when you question why people have made that assumption they immediately take it back," she added.
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Across her company the gender split is half and half, she said, but she like many peers are reflecting on what more they can do: "I'm already looking at myself as a managing director of a small company and our staff handbook, to make sure people feel comfortable coming forward if they have an issue."
She was echoed by Sadie Lofthouse, HR director at Southwold-based brewery Adnams, who said: "For an industry that's male dominated, and for an industry that's had some pretty uncomfortable conversations going on over the last few weeks around sexual harassment, and how women are treated within this industry — especially within craft beer — our track record on gender is amazing.
“We can really hold our heads high there. And we’ve done really well on age — we’ve got employees of 16 to 72.
“Do we need to do more around race, nationality and disability? Absolutely. It's kind of on our agenda and our to do list, to do a lot more and to work harder around that.”
And the problem transcends just craft beer, with one of the country's largest pub groups pledging to continue working on its diversity.
Suffolk-based Greene King said: “As a long-standing brewer in Bury St Edmunds, we’re proud to have people working here today who are following in the footsteps of not just parents and grandparents but great-great grandparents too.
"We care about building a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects our society and we support a number of employee-led diversity groups within Greene King, including LGBTQ and Women’s networks.”