Can beer bring us together? The craft beer community thinks so…
In 2016, Philadelphia’s own Dock Street Brewery collaborated on a new beer with someone from their own neighborhood. That someone was Chill Moody, the acclaimed hip-hop artist and head of “nicethings” music label. He grew up just a few blocks from the West Philly brewery. An avid beer fan himself, Chill Moody made fast friends with the Dock Street crew and soon they were dreaming up beers they could create together.
The result of their first endeavor was nicethingsIPA, a hoppy, pineapple-infused beer with “Mosaic hops running the show, featuring Amarillo and Simcoe on the chorus.” What was meant to be a limited, small batch release sold out immediately. It wasn’t long before they were brewing more nicethingsIPA and riffing on new ideas for their next collab.
Chill Moody’s success as a brewer isn’t just about making great beer. “I want to find a way to combine cultures, introduce some hip-hop culture into the craft beer scene,” Moody told the Philadelphia Inquirer. What makes beer and music the right mediums to do this? “Music to me has always been the vehicle that could break down any wall or barrier between people,” he told us. “When I first got to the Philly craft beer scene, it was through my music, and I saw beer connecting people in the say way.”
In an industry that skews heavily towards white males, many in the beer community are joining Dock Street and Chill Moody in creating conversations about why diversity in beer matters and how they can set up the framework to establish a more inclusive craft beer environment.
One organization that has put diversity front and center is the Brewers Association (BA). A spokesperson explained to Draught Lines that this outreach “isn’t just a feel-good effort, it’s an increasingly important key to success in the craft beer community.” Earlier this year, BA introduced their Diversity Best Practices resource hub, a five-part series designed to help any beer business looking to cultivate diversity. The series covers everything from “Laying the Groundwork” to “Diversifying Your Brand.”
“I want to find a way to combine cultures, introduce some hip-hop culture into the craft beer scene.” – Chill Moody
“Craft beer is made by and for everyone,” explains Bob Pease, president and CEO of BA. “Diversity and inclusion are opportunities for businesses to lead and succeed.” Furthering their commitment, in April of last year Pease and his team appointed Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Ph.D as their first-ever Diversity Ambassador.
Jackson-Beckham has spent the last year and a half traveling the country speaking on best practices for diversifying both customer bases and craft brewing staffs. “I am really grateful for the opportunity to be part of authentic efforts to overcome some of [these] challenges – to change how a lot of folks in the industry think,” she says.
In addition to this new position and additional resources, BA has also awarded $20,000 in their inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Event Grants. The money, which was awarded to fund six regional events, will support inclusivity programming. “Events connect people with beer and each other,” says Julia Herz, craft beer program director at BA. “Inspiring organizers to deliberately welcome a broad and diverse group of attendees is the opportunity and our goal.”
Back in Philadelphia, after the blazing success of their first collaboration, Chill Moody and Dock Street teamed up once again. Their newest offering? nicethingsCREAMALE, an easy-drinking, blackberry cream ale brewed with flaked corn. Released this past May, it quickly became one of Dock Street’s most sought after beers this year.
While a third nicethingsBEER release hasn’t been officially announced quite yet, Chill Moody is already in the planning stages for future iterations. “I’ve got a couple ideas. I think making a Double nicethingsIPA would be cool. I also want to try my hand in creating a sour.”
These efforts and beer collabs are only just the beginning. As the industry moves to attract more people of color, the craft beer landscape will only grow stronger.