Craft brewing, when done right, embodies the greatest qualities of America: Independent entrepreneurship, collaboration, community, exploration and democracy. But also like America, craft brewing has lacked diversity, being a mostly white (bearded) male community. This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, because craft brewers are often super progressive people. This is just how the demographics of the industry have evolved. But obviously, as a niche industry grows to the heights that craft brewing has, demographics change and the population expands. But while there are definitely a ton more women in brewing (some of which are the most powerful in the community), things are still relatively white.
That’s why we liked hearing that the Harlem Brewing Co., a 15-year-old black-owned (and female-owned) craft brewery, is getting a big opportunity to spread its wings by distributing in 39 Wal-Marts across New York State. Think about that: A minority-owned small business, within a small, independent industry, gaining shelf space inside the freaking largest retailer in the world. Now that is an awesome American story.
We turn to The Root:
“I hope it turns into a Patti-pies situation,” Celeste Beatty, owner of Harlem Brewing, said, laughing, during a phone call with The Root.
Beatty got onto Wal-Mart’s radar after an exec saw her on an MSNBC segment with Tamron Hall. She says that people were also calling the retailer and asking for the brand — which currently includes Sugar Hill Golden Ale, Harlem Renaissance Wit and Strawberry Hard Cider — by name. With the Wal-Mart deal, Beatty says she expects sales to increase by as much as 20 percent.
“I didn’t really know that Wal-Mart was really a crafty retail place, but I’ve had a chance to talk to them, and I have noticed, not only with the beer, [that] a lot of their produce and other products come from local markets. So it was encouraging to see that, because … what I hear is so much of their stuff comes from China,” she says.
Definitely read the whole story on The Root for the full background of Beatty and her cool brewery.
This move by Wal-Mart wasn’t just a one-off thing for a cool story, either. The New York Post quoted a Wal-Mart spokesperson who said craft beer is a growing category for the monolithic retailer and part of “$250 billion investment over 10 years supporting American manufacturing jobs.” We remain skeptical of things Wal-Mart spokespeople say but are also hopeful this is just the first step for a craft beer takeover.