After reconsidering its decision to pulling out of the Detroit Fall Beer Festival this weekend, Eastern Market Brewing Co. still plans to skip this year’s event.
The brewery held a staff meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss whether or not to reverse the decision, before Founders Brewing Company officially pulled out of the event. The Detroit-based brewery announced on Monday evening that it would no longer participating in the event where Founders Brewing Company was schedule to serve alongside more than 125 breweries. Eastern Market Brewing stated that by boycotting the event, it hoped to “raise awareness of the lack of inclusion and diversity in the craft beer industry.”
On Thursday, in a post to Facebook, Eastern Market Brewing Co. writes:
We have made the decision to stand by our position that we will not attend the Detroit Fall Beer Festival this weekend, even though Founders will no longer be attending. This decision was made as a team with input from community members that we love and support.
What started as a stance against Founders has served as a reminder that the topic of diversity and inclusion is bigger than beer. We need to move the conversation past the negativity surrounding this situation and begin to focus on what we all can do to create positive change in our community and industry. We’re excited to begin working with the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, CitizenDetroit, and other local organizations to keep the momentum going. As always but this weekend, in particular, our taproom will be a communal space for open and honest dialogue.
We also acknowledge that we need to change. As a community-focused brewery, we need to stand by our values and work to become a better and more diverse representation of Eastern Market and Detroit. This is a commitment we are making to ourselves and our community.
Founders has been embroiled in controversy this week over a leaked deposition transcript related to an ongoing racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee, Tracy Evans. The transcript has drawn outrage on social media not just in Michigan, but across the country. While Eastern Market Brewing is the only confirmed brewery boycotting the festival, many restaurants and bars have vowed to stop serving Founders.
The Founders lawsuit is just the latest example of tensions in the craft beer industry, where people of color and women are underrepresented. According to recent data released by the Brewers Association, the craft beer industry is overwhelmingly white and male. The trade group reports that 88.4 percent of brewery owners are white and only 1 percent identify as black, according to Vice. Likewise, black employees comprise less than 5 percent of non-managerial production staff roles.
The Michigan Brewers Guild, which organizes the annual Detroit Fall Beer Festival in Eastern Market, has stayed mostly silent throughout the week, issuing nearly identical statements addressing Eastern Market Brewing Company’s and Founders’ decisions to pull out of the event. “Occasionally we have brewery members drop out of a festival, and while that is unfortunate, the celebration this weekend will be about all the great Michigan breweries and beers that are present,” a spokesperson for Michigan Brewers Guild wrote in an email. The guild did not respond to questions about how the organization was addressing diversity and inclusion in the Michigan beer industry.
Although Eastern Market Brewing Co. received support for taking a stand, it’s also experienced some pushback on social media from some individuals who feel the brewery is inserting itself into a controversy for publicity. The Detroit Fall Beer Festival, some point out, is in Eastern Market where the brewery’s taproom is also located — suggesting that the brewery will still benefit from being in close proximity to the event. In response to that criticism, Eastern Market Brewing pledged on Tuesday to donate 10 percent of its total revenue on Friday and Saturday to the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.
• Founders Brewing Bails on Detroit Fall Beer Fest Amid Criticism Over Racial Discrimination Lawsuit [ED]
• Local Bars and Restaurants Remove Founders Beers From Menus in Response to Backlash [ED]
• Tracking the Fallout From Founders Brewing Company’s Racial Discrimination Lawsuit [ED]