I drink American "craft" beer most of the time when I drink beer. I'd say "almost every time," but I drink quite a bit of non-American craft beer, and I do occasionally wind up with something like a Michelob or a Guinness. But probably 70-80% of the beer I drink is brewed in America, and is not a mainstream-type lager.
I'm also a straight, white male; and I'm like a 0 on the Kinsey Scale straight, 100% German-Scots white. I am neither proud nor defensive about any of that, just laying it out because it's relevant in this context.
"This context" is the aggregate of craft beer drinkers, and if you haven't ever noticed before -- which would be tough, unless you're solidly non-self-aware -- the aggregate of craft beer drinkers is a white swordfight. It's guys, we're white, and we're straight: Straight White Males. The floor of a big fest, like the GABF, is thronged with them (this pic from the 2008 GABF shows about 12 women that I can see, I don't see any black folk, and, well, an Internet picture doesn't do gaydar). There are exceptions: plenty of women like craft beer, I know some black, Latino, and Asian folks that do, and I know a couple gay and lesbian craft drinkers (and yeah, there are probably more than I know). But work the numbers, and you're looking at a group that's almost 9 out of 10 white straight guys. (Craft brewers aren't too much different, looking at who was up on stage to accept GABF awards this year (and last year (and the year before...)))
How come? I know why I like the stuff -- no, wait...maybe I don't, but I for damn sure know I do like it, liked it from the first full beer I had, and liked craft beer almost as quickly. But I don't know why it's so exclusive to SWMs.
Thing is, with everything I drink -- wine, beer, liquor -- there are SWMs drinking "the good stuff," whether it's single malts, old growth zinfandels, craft beer, what have you. Without going into stereotyping, a lot more women drink good wine than drink good beer, gays and lesbians have similarly been known to enjoy good wine, and black folk have gone into cognac in a big way. My point: it's not a fear of flavor.
Is it us? Does the behavior, character, stereotypes of straight white men add up to something everyone else just doesn't want to be around? I do remember hanging with a black couple, friends of ours, at an Irish bar Cathy and I liked, and the guy asking, "What the hell is it with white folk, anyway? You get a couple Guinnesses in you, and you all start singing!" Is it that? (I'm pretty sure he was kidding...I am, mostly.) These days we all get along in the workplace -- pretty much -- so I'm guessing this isn't it, although interpersonal strain is a weird area.
Maybe it's something much simpler: nobody ever asked. A lot of conversation in craft beer aficionado circles (sounds so much better than "talk among the geeks") is about how to get other people to drink and like craft beer. They talk about it all the time over on BeerAdvocate. But it's always about "my brother" or "this guy at work." White guys talking to white guys.
I know I try to get women to drink craft beer, and I've had some success. But as for gays and African-Americans, these days, after doing this beer/booze gig full-time for 13 years...most of the gays and non-white-Americans I know, like most of everyone I know, already drink craft beer, and that's how I met them.
We need some diversity, for diverse reasons. First, it is always nice to get some variance of opinion and thought. As brilliantly illustrated here and here, and here, getting a view from somewhere other than SWM-ville is a good thing. The SWMs are cool, I love us, but we tend to group-think (as any other group does, and the more homogeneous the group, so goes the thinking). Break it up.
Second, different people bring different tastes, different desires. I've always said we need more kinds of brewpubs; we need more kinds of everything to do with beer. Bringing in new groups to drive that difference is good. Do I think that because someone is gay/female/black they would like something other than me? Not necessarily, but chances are better than zero that they might.
They're also more market. It is in every craft beer drinker's interest to get more people turned on to craft beer. (Well, except the snooty little snots who get off on liking something no one else 'gets' because it brings meaning to their life, and they can always worship some tiny output brewery, much like the cork dorks and their subscription-only grape juice.) The more folks who drink it, the more places they'll sell it, the fresher it will be, the better off and more stable the breweries will be -- kind of like we've been seeing in the past three years, only more so. Getting more people, more diverse people, turned on to great beer variety will help that process along immensely.
So...open challenge to craft brewers, to craft drinkers, to other beer bloggers. Think about how you can be more inclusive. Tweak your advertising? Recruit diversity? Get your SWM blinders off and realize that other people might like beer too? Get out into some places you haven't been before, and talk beer. You've got the SWMs, the people that put you in your comfort zone. Now stretch. Talk to people. It may not be easy, but it may not be as hard as you think. We've got an African-American president who likes beer, and drank craft beer, in a brewpub. Big wedge.
I'd love to see this happen. Because I really do believe beer will save the world -- not quite sure how, but it's got a lot of potential -- and the more people working with us, the better.