Important conversation was flowing just as much as the beer was tonight at Eastern Market Brewing Co. The topics centered on diversity, inclusion, and equity in craft beer. The event, Friday Eve Chat, is going to be a soon to be staple in the event offerings of Eastern Market Brewing Co in 2020.
Friday Eve Chats are scheduled for the third Thursday of every month and intend to highlight an important topic that Eastern Market Brewing Co wants to bring to people’s attention, have a conversation about, and educate others.
Tonight’s topics were ones the brewery acknowledged were on the forefront locally as of late, but, “in reality, has been an issue in the industry long before” Eastern Market Brewing Co opened in 2017.
In the past, the brewery has had a monthly charity focus, but is working toward a quarter focus with an “actionable plan”. The first half of 2020 will be focused on diversity, inclusion, and equity, especially with Black History Month and LGBTQ Pride Month, in that first half.
Dayne Bartscht, the Managing Partner of Eastern Market Brewing Co, put together a panel to discuss diversity, inclusion, and equity this evening. He was also the moderator who asked questions posed to Eastern Market Brewing Co on social media, his own wonderings, and from the audience. The panel included:
- Harry Weaver, founder of the Brewz Brothaz podcast
- Sasha Womble, member of the Brewz Brothaz podcast
- Eric Plata, headbrewer of DeHops Brewing Company and Café (Walker)
- Rachel Szlaga, owner of Brewery Faisan (Detroit)
- Jasmine Hairston, program specialist at Eastern Michigan University and beertender at Eastern Market Brewing Company
The panel discussed a tons of topics including their first craft beers, how “craft beer” has changed over the years, the economics of beer, and how to be more inclusive to ALL types of people that enter a brewery or attend an event.
The conversation began with kind of an underground premise, but as the night went on and more audience members began asking questions and talking it was shown that these issues are not only on the minds at Eastern Market Brewing Co. By the end of the night, the audience was participating just as much as the panel and provided personal stories, what groups of people are getting together to learn about and drink beer, and resources to utilize in order to make change and not just talk about it.
The large elephant painted on the wall behind the bar was the visual elephant in the room, but the other elephant in the room was also brought up and addressed. If you haven’t been keeping up or need a refresher, I’m referring to Eastern Market Brewing Co’s decision and reasoning to withdraw from the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Detroit Fall Beer Festival in October of last year. While some critics may say that that is old news, those in the room were hoping 2020 will bring much needed change to the foundation, attitude, and action plan of a brewery looking to reopen in the city.
Dayne’s actions and contributions are worth noting. He repeatedly acknowledged that he is a “white dude with a beard who started a brewery”, but was asking questions and listening to everyone in the room as they shared hardships, experiences, thoughts and/or observations within the craft beer industry.
At one point, Dayne wondered about how Eastern Market Brewing Co can really do community outreach. The panel was quick to say that community outreach was more than donating money to an charity. Organizations and businesses need to get their face out into the community by interacting with people, especially with groups who are different than them. Another piece of advice that the panel made was that breweries needed to make their space welcoming and not treat people differently. One audience member told Dayne that she felt like Eastern Market Brewing Co was her Cheers spot.
Dayne wrapped up the conversation with a few powerful reflections. He said he’s learning and telling other breweries and small businesses that “the easiest route, isn’t the best route” when it comes to making decisions. He concluded by saying he felt the conversation with everyone “brought back faith in humanity.” The panel and audience took questions until about 8:30 pm, and people continued to converse well after that.
Overall, I found the Friday Eve Chat with the diverse panel and audience to be informative and much needed. The event brought a breath of fresh air that I believe can, will, and should manifest into a wind of sweeping change in the craft beer industry. I’m looking forward to being a part of the change both as a member of Better on Draft and as a consumer in the craft beer industry.