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Sloop Brewing Wants to Diversify the Hudson Valley’s Beer Industry

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Photos by Sloop Brewing Co.

The Dutchess County brewery unveils Open Waters, a paid internship program to encourage diversity and teach participants about the Valley’s craft beverage scene.

From selling beer at farmers’ markets across the Hudson Valley to moving into the massive former IBM facility in East Fishkill, Sloop Brewing Co. has made monumental changes in recent years. Its latest change is the Open Waters internship, a paid program designed to begin dismantling the gender and racial barriers in the craft beverage industry.

The Open Waters internship will begin January 1, 2021. Interns will work 20 hours a week over a three-month period. The internship encompasses every aspect from brewing to packaging and is open to any Hudson Valley resident over 21, but strongly encourages women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community to submit applications, which close October 31.

“By the time [the interns] leave here, they should know how to do every aspect of this job,” Director of Operations Alyssa McAuley says.

Another important aspect of the internship is that interns will have assistance and support when they begin looking for a brewery to work in full-time upon successful completion of the program.

“From what I have seen on social media, I think there are less than 10 of us [women],” says Mariquita Reese, professional brewer at Sloop Brewing Co. and chairwoman of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “For black women, I think I’m one of two in New York State,” she adds.

The Brewers Association (BA) released a report from 2019 on employee diversity within breweries based on a nationwide diversity survey. According to the data retrieved, 7.5 percent of the brewery staff employed a female brewer. The report states that 88 percent of individuals who own breweries are white, while American Indian owners came in at four percent, Asian and Hispanic owners each at two percent, and black owners at only one percent.

“Our main goal is to hopefully empower a future, hopefully leader of the industry,” says Reese. “Long-term, our goal is to have someone trained and skilled enough to maybe open their own brewery some day or be in a managerial position at another brewery.”

The board behind the Open Waters internship program states that a major reason they are starting this internship is due to the lack of diversity within the Hudson Valley.

“Everywhere is lacking that aspect of the brewing industry and, because of that, we felt that this was a golden opportunity to try and reach out to communities that aren’t as represented in the craft brewing industry,” explains Sheridan Alexander, who is part of the Sloop Brewing Co. sales team. “We really hope that other breweries can tag along and hopefully do the same thing.”

Aside from the Open Waters program, Sloop Brewing Co. has taken other steps to increase inclusivity within the craft beverage industry. Meagan Donovan, Sloop Brewing Co. content coordinator, ensures advertisements are not marketed only to the male population, and that the annual LBGTQ+ promotions are trans-inclusive.

For people who are not as represented in the current craft beverage community, it is understandable why they may be nervous to take the first steps and apply, McAuley says.

“It is scary to walk into a place and not see anyone you identify with … but this is a company that you can come in and be who you are and try to affect change together,” McAuley says.