Brewery leaders launch a collective aimed at promoting diversity in the beer industry
written and photographed by Jackie Dodd
The diversity of beers is seemingly endless, with a range of ingredients finding its way into brew kettles throughout the centuries. The history of craft beer is diverse, too, with contributions from cultures around the globe. This makes the lack of diversity among America’s brewery owners that much more glaring. If asked to conjure an image of a craft-brewery owner, you’re likely to instantly think of a man. A white man, probably with a beard, in a T-shirt and jeans, and for good reason—most of them are. For a diverse country such as ours, the discrepancy is astonishingly stark.
When General Manager Dreux Dillingham helped co-owner Rodney Hines open Métier Brewing in Woodinville, they brought the number of Black-owned breweries in the state to a grand total of one. Only one brewery in one of the biggest craft beer markets in the county has Black ownership. While this lack of diversity has been a topic of conversations over a round of pints for years, Dillingham decided that talk was great, but action was more his speed and started The Mosaic State Brewers Collective with Grace Robbins, co-founder of Reuben’s Brews in Ballard.
The Mosaic State is a mentorship program, a talent incubator, a hands-on experience and a society formed to nurture talented people from diverse backgrounds who may not feel welcome in an industry dominated by white, heterosexual men. The program has three levels, limited to ten people in each, with new cohorts starting about every four months.
Each level is centered around three questions aimed at addressing the most pressing barriers to entry for people of color, women and people of the LGBTQIA (LGBT and Queer, Intersex and Asexual) community. The questions each frame a different level of the program: Do I have a place in the industry? Where is my place in the industry? How can I become a leader in the industry?
Dillingham and Robbins assist people interested in a career in craft beer to gain knowledge of brewing, marketing, sales, fostering talent and making connections in the tight-knit Washington beer scene. To raise funds and increase awareness of The Mosaic State Brewers Collective, Reuben’s Brews and Métier Brewing collaborated to brew Ombili IPA and funnel proceeds to support the program. Pronounced “ohm-bee-lee,” the word is one that Robbins learned while living in Namibia, and it means “peace, harmony and all good things.” When the beer sold out, Dillingham and Robbins brewed a chicory stout with the next cohort to teach brewing and continue raising funds for the program. They plan to continue to release beer brewed by the students to expand The Mosaic State.
The motto of The Mosaic State is inspired by an African proverb which Dillingham and Robbins summed up as “go far, go together”—as the community of craft beer grows, welcoming more people with a variety of experiences will help it become stronger and richer. With those not yet fully represented, craft beer will go far.