NC’s craft beer scene has a diversity problem. Scholarship initiative aims to help

Drew Jackson, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Business News

“Otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” Brake said of Spaceway.

“I wish there was something like (Many Faces Initiative) when I was starting out,” Brake said. “I’m trying to create more diversity, I’m trying to set an example. I want people to see me, that I’m doing it. It’s a struggle, but I’m doing it.”

Brake hopes the program can be a catalyst in the industry, leading to more people of color finding careers in beer.

“I think that’s a great first step,” she said. “People come to me, but they don’t have any experience, and I don’t have the time to give them the basics.”

Fullsteam director of tavern operations Ari Sanders is on the Many Faces Committee, a mentor program for the interns. Formerly she was a bartender at Hillsborough’s Mystery Brewing, eventually becoming general manager of its taproom, before taking over Fullsteam’s taproom and restaurant operations.

Sanders said she came to beer through a career in restaurants and that a sulfite allergy led her away from wine to beer, which she believes is better for pairing with food anyway.

The cycle of whiteness in craft beer, she said, started at the beginning. And like in other industries, it can be a struggle to break, she said.

“Most people know people more like themselves,” Sanders said. “I feel like most industries, when they start up, tend to be homogeneous. The systems in America with access to capital determine when industries start. And whatever starts up tends to be a little bit white and a little bit male.”

Sanders said the pattern of development breweries can bring can also create barriers for minority communities, pointing to the tendency of breweries to move into industrial spaces and gentrify surrounding neighborhoods.


“If craft brewing wants to be about community, it has to be about the community it’s in,” Sanders said. “The industry has a lot of work to do, and it really needs to do that work.”

That work, Sanders said, will extend beyond a summer internship program and include breweries considering their own cultures. She pointed to recent allegations of racial discrimination against high profile breweries Founders and Boulevard.

“We have to make sure we’re including people in healthy environments as we talk about inclusivity,” Sanders said. “Getting in the door is only part of it. ... I hope the conversation we’re having pushes brewers to shine a light on themselves. ... I really hope this is a life-altering experience that can change the trajectory of careers for people.”



For more information on this year’s Many Faces Initiative, or to donate to the campaign, visit

To apply for the Bond Brothers internship, visit

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