This summer hundreds of women spoke out about their experiences with sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and racism in the beer industry. This outpouring sent shockwaves through the beer world, but there is still so much room for improvement. I checked in with Ash Eliot about efforts to keep the momentum going toward making the beer industry safe for everyone with the Brave Noise brew collab.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with craft beer?
I started my journey in beer in late 2018. I left my career in the music industry working in digital marketing and PR for record labels (BMG, Universal Music Enterprises, Interscope Records) to pursue craft beer and hospitality. While I was still working on some freelance music projects during this career change, I knew it was a chance to also try as many jobs as possible to learn as much as possible about the beer world. I started working beer fests, doing cold outreach to new breweries who might need help with events, social media and PR, and beertended. About 7 months in I decided to go on a whim to the Pink Boots bi-annual conference in Austin, Texas, though I couldn’t officially be a member at the time. After that, it helped push me forward to keep trying to work in this industry and hopefully help elevate women doing incredible work in brewing. I’ve now worked with a lot of breweries in their 1-3 year startup phase and expanded into other alcohol like hard kombucha, whiskey, and even alcoholic popsicles. I’m also a partner with digital creator and homebrewing educator Sarah Flora aka Flora Brewing who now has 20K YouTube subscribers. We also collaborated on a podcast called Brewing After Hours which I produce and edit. I founded a platform to help empower women in the beverage industry and provide resources called Women of the Bevolution which is how I met Brienne Allan and we ended up collaborating on Brave Noise.
If someone hasn’t been on Instagram this year and isn’t familiar with @ratmagnet and what happened this summer, can you give a synopsis?
Given there have been numerous media covering the stories that have been shared I would hope this is not the case but the beer industry isn’t as digitally savvy as others so I can understand this happening. In May, Brienne Allan (@RatMagnet on Instagram) had shared a story about her experience with sexism and called out to her followers asking if they had faced similar situations in the beer industry. Suddenly hundreds of women started to send her messages and Brienne shared them on her Instagram. The beer industry exploded. Finally, after far too many years, the beer industry was having a long-overdue #MeToo movement. More messages were submitted in regards to sexual harassment, assault, and racism. Now thousands of stories have been shared. Some brewery CEOs have stepped down due to the stories, women have left jobs due to toxic work environments and at the snail’s pace that is the industry changes are happening here and there but still it’s not enough and actions are not being taken. That’s what inspired Brave Noise, a global beer collab and initiative honoring the brave voices who have spoken up. With Brave Noise we are advocating for a safe and discrimination-free beer industry.
What was the experience of seeing so many of these stories like for you?
It was triggering for me and all women. Whether it’s in the workplace or in just daily life women are constantly dealing with sexist and harassing situations. It was definitely tough to read the stories but I understood that these have been held in for so long. I honestly yelled “fuck yes, finally” that these stories were being shared publicly and women are speaking up. It is long overdue.
How has what happened this summer changed things for you in craft beer?
Personally, given I do freelance and work with a variety of clients in alcohol, music and social impact, and all this happened when where I live in Los Angeles starting to open back up and have events and so my clients wanted to do events… it was and it is still a lot at once. I wholeheartedly knew that I wanted to do whatever it took to support this movement and make sure the conversation keeps going. It’s as if I’ve been waiting for this to happen and there was no fucking way I was going to let anything get in the way of me being there to support and do whatever I can. And I can’t speak on behalf of Brienne Allan but I can see it taking a toll given trying to juggle all this and keep her role as a brewer and production manager for Notch Brewing while still continuing to share stories, provide resources, and suddenly becoming this voice of the movement.
What is your role in the Brave Noise collab?
I am really the resource and the behind-the-scenes person. This collab was initiated and founded by Brienne Allan. She knew that I had been gathering resources and was super active in trying to create awareness and mobilize others to get involved. So we decided to partner up on it. I would help sort out the non-profit partnerships, bringing on resources like Ren Navarro of Beer Diversity, Rebecca Weaver of HRuprise, Jen Blair, SoCal Cerveceros Homebrew Club, etc. And I’m the one that gets to answer emails and have those lovely conversations with problematic breweries who submit for the collab.
Can you tell us about Brave Noise? What’s it all about? What are your goals with Brave Noise? What’s the current state of Brave Noise? Who else is involved with Brave Noise?
Brave Noise is a global collaboration brew and initiative advocating for a safe and discrimination-free beer industry. The mission of the collab is to have breweries commit to the long-term work and be transparent with their staff and customers by submitting their code of conduct and posting it publicly. This way customers and staff can hold these companies accountable if they are not living up to these statements and values. We are also asking breweries to donate to a non-profit that reflects the mission of Brave Noise. That means charities that are creating safe spaces, advocating for women’s rights, providing tools and training in regards to sexual harassment and diversity/inclusion, and offering mental health support and resources. We are encouraging a majority of proceeds from the beer to go to the charity.
In terms of who is involved, we have several partners that have helped in every aspect. We have Rebecca Weaver from HR uprise who has created a guide for breweries that might need assistance with their code of conduct and she’s also a resource in the case anyone needs help crafting a new code of conduct. We have Ren Navarro of Beer Diversity who specializes in consulting and training how businesses can create more diverse/inclusive environments. The misconduct reporting app #NotMe has also been an ongoing partner and created a page for the beer industry in their app to help those that want to report something to easily do so and for free. Jen Blair who is the Beer Quality and Education manager at Orpheus Brewing in Atlanta and is super involved in the homebrewing community helped to create the homebrew recipe in partnership with Los Angeles-based homebrew club SoCal Cerveceros. The Good Hop in Oakland has been a huge voice in the beer bar and bottle shop community. Infinite Ingredient is a new non-profit focused on providing resources to best support the mental and physical well-being of beer industry professionals. Katie Muggli the founder has been a big help in vetting non-profits that reflect our mission. We also have various actual ingredient partners who have offered various discounts for breweries.
Which breweries have really stepped up and supported you and Brave Noise the most?
It has been really interesting to see which breweries have wanted to do even more beyond what our initiative entails. We’ve had several breweries reach out about hosting events and bringing in a panel of experts and additional resources and open that up to the beer community to come in and learn more and see what they can do to help. We’ve had breweries reach out to us that want to do T-shirt fundraisers or even a 5K run fundraiser calling it Brave Noise. One really good example is Pilot Brewing in Charlotte, North Carolina, which created a full-on tool kit to help other breweries develop their own policies and protocols and to just do better in the industry. Another example is Newport Brewing & Distillery in Rhode Island hosted an event with several women-owned businesses and also had a guest speaker that focused on sexual assault and harassment. We’re working on panel discussions and events with Trillium Brewing, Green Bench Brewing, Jester King Brewery, Athletic Brewing, and Pilot Project Brewing. I think we’re going to see the breweries that want to take that extra step and do more and consumers are going to take notice.
What’s next for you and Brave Noise?
Both Brienne Allan and I are trying to continue to make some much-needed noise around this collab by helping facilitate events, visit breweries, reach out to leaders in the industry to actually take action, continue creating resources for staff in the industry. Most recently we collaborated on an emergency relief fund called the Bevolution Brave Voices Fund with non-profit Another Round Another Rally and Jen Blair with the goal of providing financial aid and resources for those that need help leaving these toxic work environments and move forward.
How can craft beer continue to grow and improve?
The beer community needs to continue to keep businesses accountable. We need action. We need the homebrewers and the beer drinkers to look out and see what their local brewery is doing. Do they have a code of conduct? Look at their social media and their website. What are they doing to create supportive and safe environments for staff and consumers? What are they doing to address the issues in the industry right now? I think these are all things that everyone should be asking their local breweries, and they should be mindful of how they’re investing their money. Don’t spend it on a toxic work environment. Would you want your friend or your sibling or your significant other to be working in a place like this? Think about it that way.