Of the 9,200 breweries now operating across the country, fewer than 1% are owned by Black brewers.
Marcus Baskerville, the co-founder of Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio, is recruiting up-and-coming brewers to change that.
"It may not have been my want to be an influential Black brewer within the industry — I want to be known for the quality of my beer — but this has become my purpose within the industry," Baskerville said in an interview at the Craft Brewers Conference in Minneapolis on Wednesday. "It's time to get things moving and start pushing things forward."
The Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program will help equip a dozen brewers and entrepreneurs who are women, Indigenous or people of color to start breweries in their communities.
"We want to put people in a position to actually open a brewery," Baskerville said, who plans to grow the program in the coming years.
The monthlong program will draw from a national applicant pool and function as a brewing bootcamp with the added bonus of vital business connections.
Shakopee-based Rahr Corp., which has been malting barley for beer for 175 years, is joining the effort with technical support and a $100,000 grant to fund the program's first year.
"It's exactly what the industry has been waiting for for a long time," Rahr Chief Executive Willie Rahr said. "Let's make the brewing industry look more like America."
About 92% of American craft breweries have solely white ownership, and more than 75% have all-male ownership, according to Brewers Association statistics.
"The homogeneity of the brewing industry is a moral problem — it shouldn't be that way," Rahr said. "It's also a business problem. We need to broaden the appeal of beer to underrepresented groups."
As growth slows and the industry matures, there are still entrepreneurs — and customers — who haven't been part of the market and will be key to craft beer's future.
"The American beverage alcohol consumer is increasingly BIPOC and female," Brewers Association economist Bart Watson wrote last fall. "For example, female drinkers under 25 now outnumber male drinkers under 25. So for craft to continue growing and moving more in the larger beer and beverage alcohol consumer market, it will need to connect better with that diverse customer base."
Baskerville said it is taking a generational changeover to bring on that demographic shift.
"Beer has never been marketed to minorities — malt liquor, and liquor, but not beer," he said. "So you have these generational gaps, because we thought beer was not inclusive for us."
Other industry partners, including Yakima Valley Hops and yeast provider White Labs, are supporting the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program. Jaggermeister is lending marketing expertise, and participants will be paired with Small Business Administration loan officers.
Applications for the program open in August, and the first session will be held this fall at the new Weathered Souls Brewing location in Charlotte, N.C.