Kathy Rizzo, Pt 2
Executive Director, DC Brewers' Guild
*These are Kathy Rizzo's personal opinions, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of the DC Brewers' Guild*
As a white person, how do you challenge racism and white normativity in white-dominated industry?
I am not good at it. This was one of the things I was talking with Jamaal about (in the Help the Pour podcast), you don’t see a lot of people of color in the industry, even in a place as “diverse” as DC. We may have more diversity on our scene than others in the country, but I don’t think the Brewers Association measures those statistics. I don’t know if anyone is looking through that. I mean, you can just anecdotally flip through magazines and any photograph of a brewer being interviewed is going to be a white guy.
When we are promoting beer, you know, it matters what you see. The person who taught me about beer was a woman, so I wasn’t the odd person out. It made me feel like I had a place here. If your Instagram is full of photos of white people drinking beer, nonwhite people aren’t going to look at that and say, “Yeah, that’s a place for me.” We need to be saying, “This space is not just meant for white people, it’s meant for all people.”
I also want to strike a balance. You want to highlight the presence of nonwhite people in your industry, but it’s tricky because that can turn into tokenism. Anytime someone wants to talk to a black guy in beer they talk to Garret Oliver, right? I think it’s tricky to find that balance.
We recently had a pro-bono marketing consultant talk with the Guild about a communication strategy for us to raise our profile and let more people know about what we’re doing. She did a presentation where, based on statistics, she said the three biggest demographics drinking craft beer are millennial white men, slightly older white men, and millennial white woman. So her conclusion was that we needed to pursue a communications plan that would target these groups. I was like, “Whoa whoa whoa, we already know these people like craft beer.” We want people who are not already part of this community to know they can be part of this community. Don’t create a social media campaign that’s going to get millennial white men to drink to craft beer because they already are!
What else would help foster a more inclusive craft beer industry?
I’m not quite sure myself yet, I know I don’t like equating race representation in a community with economics that much. I was reading an article a while ago that was trying to argue a point that DC’s craft beer isn’t accessible to women or minorities because it costs $2-3 more for a pint than a Budweiser. You’re telling me that I won’t spend $2-3 more for a pint because I’m a woman and make less? That can't be the only reason craft beer lacks diversity. If you want to play stereotypes, I’ll supposedly buy a glass of wine that costs more than Budweiser, so that doesn’t make any sense.
The bigger thing is making the product accessible to everyone. If you make your product accessible, your space accessible, and your community an open community, that’s how we can change the look and face in craft. In cities, breweries have to be in an industrial space for the room to brew, and they tend to be in spaces in the city that are mostly people of color. Then you go into the brewery and see it’s full of white people. Something is wrong there. What are you doing, who are you not speaking to, why is your message not reaching your neighbors?
Some of the breweries are doing a good job of community engagement. One of the reasons craft beer is so much is fun is that all of the craft brewers I know tend to invest in their communities. They host art shows, the hold fundraisers for local diaper banks, they do all kinds of community related things. To me the bigger problem is: who is your audience and how do you expand it? I think increasing diversity in craft beer needs to be a grassroots effort.
What style of beer do you think is most overhyped right now?
Can I say a beer that’s super over-hated? Twitter is so hating on the super hazy IPA situation. I’m sitting over here like, “leave these people alone! Let the people drink it if that’s what they want.” I’m not a brewer, so I have a bit of a different approach. I’m not looking so much for tradition in style, I care about what tastes good. I don’t think a beer is offensive or bad just because the brewer didn't use proper techniques or is cutting corners unless it affects the quality of the product or how you are treating your workers.
In terms of what’s overhyped, I personally don’t like these big hyperbolic beers, the beers that need to be the extreme of one end or the other. The most hopped beer you can ever imagine. The 18% chocolate peanut butter beer. That’s not fun. Maybe it’s fun for the breweries, but I don’t understand the attraction to that. It’s all a status symbol in the industry. You know, like “I”ve put the most hamburgers in a beer that anyone has ever put in beer.”
It’s beer-penis measuring.
Oh totally. I’m so disgusted by that. It’s cool when people find new flavor and new ingredients, but when you are doing for the sake of making the most extreme of something, it’s a turn-off.
Is there a particular beer you think is overhyped?
The Pliny the Elder. People were saying it’s this life changing beer, but I had been drinking craft beer for so long by the time I actually tried it, I was used to all these complex flavors. I think it’s a solid beer, but I’m not going to fly across the country for it.
That’s the thing - I’m never going to stand in line for beer. You are probably never going to hear me say a beer has changed my life. Because it’s beer. I say that a bit flippantly, and I don’t mean to disrespect the very find men and women who spend their lives making beer, which I drink a lot of and enjoy very much, but I don’t take beer that seriously.
What was the last beer you drank?
Last night I had DC Brau Corruption. We had a meeting of DC Beer Week and I had a Corruption and an Atlas Dance of Days.
What’s in your fridge right now?
So many random beers. I think I have some Dance of Days, I think I have some Atlas 1500. I had an Allagash Curieux, but I consumed it the other day. There’s also a beer that my roommates brought home, which is funny because I think they are worried I will judge them for the beer they get. They brought home a Rogue Chipotle ale and said, “Have you ever heard of this…?” They were waiting for me to say what I thought first.
This might be a dangerous question, but what are some of your favorite local beers?
Oh, that is dangerous. I haven’t found a brewery in DC that has a beer I don't like. I tell people I grew up on Right Proper so I lean toward the saison and the dryer, lower ABV beverages that they do. Those are the styles that I love the best.
Is it like, if you say a beer from two or three different breweries, the other seven will get mad at you?
Yeah, you aren’t going to get me on that question.
If you were in a pinch and had to swing by a generic grocery store or a 7-11 for beer, what would you get?
I’d probably grab Dale’s Pale Ale or some kind of helles lager that’s pretty common. Depending on who I’m going to see, I might also pick up a wit beer. I know a lot of people in my life who like wits.
The apocalypse happens and you can only have one kind of beer. What would it be?
I think I would say a well-balanced pale ale. Something that can be good on its own and also can pair well with things, like if I had to eat zombie brains