It started as a tweet, in response to the sort of anonymous personal attack that has become all too common online. Then it struck a chord, and it snowballed. That ball is still rolling.
The hashtag is #IAmCraftBeer, and the idea behind it is wider inclusion in an industry and customer base that tends to skew white and male. The people behind it—chiefly Chalonda White, a longtime Chicago beer enthusiast known online as “Afro Beer Chick,” and J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, a.k.a. “Dr. J,” the diversity ambassador for the Brewers Association—have taken a viral moment and turned it into an ongoing campaign.
That hashtag is now an aegis under which a variety of activities are possible—namely, events held at breweries or beer bars anywhere in the country, ideal for welcoming people who might not normally cross that threshold.
“The #IAmCraftBeer movement plans to keep growing stronger by having more conversations and pushing for diversity and inclusion in the industry,” White says. “We hope to see more people of color in brewing, by creating a path of support by pushing events and collaborations.”
It all started in September 2019, when White tweeted an image of a racist message she had received by email. Jackson-Beckham saw the message and was upset by it; she decided to channel that reaction into something positive. “I want to demonstrate what an inclusive #craftbeer community looks like,” she tweeted. “So, here’s what I am asking: 1. Take selfie. 2. Tell us something about your wonderful, complex, individual self. 3. Tag your post with #IAmCraftBeer.”
Jackson-Beckham received more than 200 responses in that thread alone. That viral moment led to a splash of media coverage, including in the Chicago Tribune. They seized the momentum while friends and supporters pitched in with events and ideas. Liz Garibay, founder of the Chicago Brewseum and History on Tap, hosted the first meet-up event at Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago, and more followed. A few breweries have made beers to honor the movement, including Revolution in Chicago, Love City in Philadelphia, and Trillium in Boston.
“I would say that #IAmCraftBeer is a movement created to showcase the positivity and love in the beer community,” White says, “where everyone is welcome to be who they are while drinking an amazing beer.”
Interest continued into 2020, until the coronavirus pandemic shut down hospitality and gatherings in March. There were events scheduled for March 14 at the Fermentorium Barrel House in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and for April 5 at 2nd Shift Brewing in St. Louis, Missouri. More events and collaborations were in the discussion stages.
White says the pandemic has only slowed things down temporarily. "We will definitely keep things moving," she says, "but [we're] not quick to jump back into crowds just because things are opening back up. COVID is still being spread and we still have to be safe."
“We encourage breweries to host their own events,” White says. “Just reach out to Dr. J and me so that we can add it to the website.”
Note: This article, which originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the Brewing Industry Guide, has been updated in light of recent events.