What’s your role in the beer industry?
I get asked this question quite often and its never a simple answer…. My official title at Finback is “Vibes”. I am responsible for various aspects of the business related to taproom operations, community engagement, marketing, brand awareness, festivals and events and event retail. Everyone on our team wears many hats as we are still a relatively small company which I am very grateful for as I have been able to learn so much in so little time. In regard to the beer industry as a whole, I am a face and voice for diversity and inclusion.
How did you get involved in craft beer?
I first got into craft beer while I was in college. I was working at a restaurant that had a pretty solid beer list and I got hooked on Dogfish Head 90 minute. At that time I had not had many IPAs and was blown away. My interest and passion for craft beer grew exponentially over the next few years and I would seek out different styles to explore. When I moved back to NYC from North Carolina, I became a regular at several of the craft beer bars. Shortly thereafter the craft beer scene exploded in NY kicked off by the openings of Other Half and Finback. I would spend my weekends doing release lines and attending various bottle shares… beer became my biggest hobby. A few years later I made a decision to make a career change with the intention of marrying my love for people and hospitality with my passion for craft beer. I sent my resume to one brewery and now here we are, two and a half years later and I couldn’t be happier about that decision.
What was the first beer that got you into craft?
I think I answered that in the last response…lol. Dogfish 90 Minute. But I will list a few others just because…
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
Diversity is a term that refers to our differences and what makes each of us unique while inclusion speaks to an environment that makes everyone feel welcome. Embracing differences and creating spaces that are diverse lead to more thriving companies and industries.
Why is diversity and inclusion important for the brewing industry?
Beer brings people together. Diverse environments attract larger audiences and thus allows breweries to thrive as they reach more people. Consumers are more likely to support businesses that employ staff that look like them. Inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees. Craft beer is such a special community and has the potential to be an industry leader when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
How would you like to see the craft beer community change and why?
I think it is already changing and evolving. I think back to my early days in the craft beer scene and very often I would be the only person of color at some craft beer bars. Even amongst my peers, craft beer was viewed as geeky and unapproachable. I have witnessed a shift and a growing awareness and interest in drinking better beer. I would like to see more and more breweries develop programs and initiatives that work towards the collective goals of being more diverse and inclusive. I’d also like to see more breweries get involved in social activism and use their platforms to invoke change. Beer has the power to unite and far too often breweries neglect to use their platforms for purposes and causes that are bigger than beer… putting profit over people.
Do you have any stories you can share that made you reflect on inclusivity in our industry?
Garret Oliver – simple as that.
What are some practices breweries can implement to make their environments more welcoming and accessible to all?
I think there are multiple ways that breweries can work harder to attract a more diverse crowd regardless of neighborhood, programming and marketing their spaces in ways that reach a larger audience, not just the people who already frequent their spaces. It also goes back to the hiring process and the diversity of the teams they build.
Are there any inclusivity efforts you’ve participated in that you’d like to share?
We at Finback have made a conscious and targeted effort to modify our hiring practices and attract more diverse pool of candidates. I believe that our taprooms are some of the most diverse and inclusive spaces in NYC and we have worked really hard to always make sure people feel welcome. NYC kind of has the reputation of bartenders being rude and snappy, embodying the douchebag persona. We are very thorough in our hiring practices and are committed to building a team of bartenders and staff that genuinely care about hospitality and treating people with respect.
What makes you feel comfortable in a beer environment?
I am very passionate about craft beer and I believe that it has so much potential to grow and become more diverse. I truly love interacting with people, drinking and talking about beer. Something so simple as a beverage has connected me with so many amazing people. I also have built a really great network and circle of friends.
Are there any barriers to inclusion that are specific to craft beer that you see?
I think historically, craft beer has always been viewed as a white industry and the numbers of black owned breweries and people of color in this industry is still so small. I think, like many issues in this country, it goes back to ownership and opportunities. We need more black and brown faces. We need more women. We need to keep working towards erasing the stigma that craft beer is all white bearded dudes with flannel shirts. That is going to take a lot of work…
What gives you hope about the future of craft beer in New York?
New York has emerged as one of the top craft beer hubs and destinations in the country. What we lack in quantity we make up for in quality. The beer community here in NYC is very close knit and we all get along. We all support each other and have created a scene that can rival any other city. NYC is also one of the most diverse cities in the world. That speaks volumes to how diverse and inclusive our taprooms are. I also think that our success is attracting more and more breweries to open up and set up an outposts here. The challenges of the pandemic did not hurt the NYC breweries like it did breweries in other parts of the country. We were all able to quickly adapt and pivot, modifying our businesses to tackle the challenges that Covid presented. I also can’t say enough about the support from the beer community here in NYC. It was truly amazing how so many people rallied around the breweries and helped us during what has been a very interesting year. NYC will continue to be a leader in the craft beer world and continue our ascension to the top.. if we aren’t already there.