New initiative hopes to bring more diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility to Alberta’s craft beer industry

The Hop Forward Society is a volunteer-driven group working with community members, business partners

By Krista Sylvester | January 5, 2022 |5:00 am

At left, Kelly Mandeville, marketing and communications, and at right, Sharon Ruyter, co-founder and co-Chair of the newly launched volunteer-driven Hop Forward Society.

Photo: Quinn Campbell

It’s time to put some actions behind the words when it comes to diversity in the province’s craft beer industry. 

At least that’s what the minds behind the recently-formed Hop Forward Society are focused on. 

Hoping to spur more than just conversation, the Hop Forward Society is a volunteer-driven initiative that works with community members and business partners in the pursuit of a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible craft beer industry in Alberta.

The idea started brewing early last year after the murder of George Floyd at the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin, who is now serving at least 20 years in prison. 

“During the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and as an enthusiastic craft beer drinker, I started noticing a lot of breweries posting and supporting Black Lives Matter,” Hop Forward Society co-founder and co-chair of the board Sharon Ruyter explains. 

That’s when she started to poke around to see what that means in action. In her research, she connected via social media with Erin McQuitty, co-founder of Calgary’s Born Brewing Co. 

The duo got together with a group of like-minded people and started brainstorming about what they were going to do, culminating in the launch of the Hop Forward Society at the end of October 2021. 

The vision: A craft beer industry that is diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible

The Hop Forward Society acknowledges the past and present barriers that exist in the craft beer industry that has led to the exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people, people who are LGBTQ2S+, and those from various underrepresented communities. 

Their vision is simple: help create and foster a craft beer industry that is diverse, inclusive, equitable, and accessible. 

While it’s not directly related to recent allegations of sexual harassment in the craft beer industry, as Calgary Citizen has covered in the past, that’s one area that could fall under the umbrella. 

“You can’t really talk about diversity or inclusion without all these conversations happening, whether it’s racism, whether it’s sexism, and things like that,” Ruyter says. 

“Ultimately, our goal is to make sure that underrepresented groups feel like they belong in the industry and can work, participate, and enjoy being in taprooms, and attending events.” 

Looking at the big picture with an intersectional lens 

One thing that makes the society’s work unique is that it goes beyond craft brewers to other related businesses, such as liquor stores and restaurants that carry craft beer produced in Alberta. 

“We see that not only as a way to improve the industry but also as a way to ensure that we have the most accessibility for opportunity in the industry,” McQuitty adds. 

“So someone may not necessarily want to work in a brewery, but they might be an owner of a liquor store or want to work in a restaurant. They can still participate in the programs and initiatives we have going on.” 

The society denounces racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and sexism in all its forms, and believes they must work as individuals and as an organization to create inclusive and equitable spaces within our industry for underrepresented people. 

There are different ways the group is hoping to do that, including a grant program 

One of the first initiatives the group is offering is a grant program for members of underrepresented groups in the craft beer industry. Specifically, if you are a Black, Indigenous, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, and/or a person with a disability. 

“Thinking about creating an accessible and inclusive craft beer industry is about making sure that people who want to work in the industry are supported and feel like they’re able to be their authentic selves,” Ruyter explains. 

The Hop Forward Society is offering two types of grants; two $1,000 grants awarded annually, and microgrants of up to $500 awarded on an ongoing basis for people who want to get involved in the industry. 

“Through that, we are hoping to see more representation in the industry, whether it’s brewing, whether it’s in sales, whether it’s in marketing, whatever it may be, for those underrepresented groups,” Ruyter adds. 

The society’s board is made up of 10 dedicated volunteers, with volunteers also working on committees. Find out more about the Hop Forward Society and its ongoing work. 

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Krista Sylvester

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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