If you ask someone to close their eyes and describe what a brewer looks like, nine out of 10 times they’ll describe a white guy with a beard wearing a flannel,” says Ryan Corbett, a brewer at Sloop Brewing Co.
He’s not too far off. In 2019, 77 percent of breweries were owned by men, according to the Brewers Association’s benchmark survey. People of color owned a dismal 9 percent of breweries.
The craft beverage industry has its own community; tons of Hudson Valley residents live by brewery tours and taste-testing new concoctions and famed cans. Yet the people behind beloved breweries are predominantly white men — and Sloop in East Fishkill wants that to change.
“The [stats] are staggering,” says Director of Operations Alyssa McAuley, “[The survey] opened a conversation with a bunch of us about what we can do and what our participation in the industry should look like.”
Sloop founded a diversity and inclusion committee to tackle racial and gender barriers and stereotypes in the industry. In January 2021, it launched the Open Waters internship, a paid opportunity for individuals to learn the ropes of anything and everything brewing. The committee looks for community-involved applicants who actively make change and overcome sociopolitical barriers. People of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and women are strongly encouraged to apply.
Sloop hosts one intern per quarter, and for those three months the intern will dive into a well-rounded craft beer curriculum, starting with the packaging process. They’ll learn about brite tank cleaning and maintenance, canning and kegging operations, and quality control. In the second month, interns move to cellar work with a focus on dry hops, yeast addition, and centrifuge and fermentation operation. They finish off with brewing — from recipe comprehension to off-flavors training to wort production.
“I’ve been homebrewing with my wife and close friend for about three years now and have been talking about starting a brewery with them for longer than that. Problem was, I [had] zero knowledge of the industry,” says Shanna Bowman, Sloop’s Q2 2021 intern. “Being able to commit to part time — while being given the behind-the-scenes opportunity to learn what goes into the crafting and production — was a dream internship pitch for me. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Sloop produces delicious beer.”
So far, Sloop’s had two interns: Bowman, and Sarah Deodath (pictured above), who completed the program and now works at the woman-owned TALEA Beer Co. in Brooklyn. Sloop’s third intern starts on July 1.
“The lack of diversity is what I’ve always noticed first. To put it plainly, once you look beyond bartenders, the industry is full of straight white men,” Bowman continues. “…If I want to see more badass b*tches brewing, I have to be the brewing b*tch I want to see in the world, and then send the line back down to bring more up with me.”