Beer and Racism
How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It

Front Matter

Beer in the United States has always been bound up with race, racism, and the construction of white institutions and identities. This unique book carves a much-needed critical and interdisciplinary path to examine and understand the racial dynamics in the craft beer industry and the popular consumption of beer. The book's guiding theoretical perspectives are race and the founding of the United States; racial ideology and the boundaries of Americanity; the production of (beer as) culture; and cultural diversity and brewing. It begins with an overview of the whiteness of craft beer. Looking at the history of beer and its origin stories in the 'new world' shows that beer in the United States has always been bound up with race, racism, and the construction of white institutions and identities. Given the very quick and meteoric rise of the craft beer industry, as well as the myopic scholarly focus on economic and historical trends in the industry, the book states that there is an urgent need to take stock of the intersectional inequalities that such realities gloss over.


Sociology of Diversity series

Series Editor: David G. Embrick, University of Connecticut, US

The Sociology of Diversity series brings together the highest quality sociological and interdisciplinary research specific to ethnic, racial, gender and sexualities diversity.

Forthcoming in the series:

Racial Diversity in Contemporary France: Rethinking the French Model

Marie des Neiges Léonard, June 2021

Craft Food Diversity: Challenging the Myth of a U.S. Food Revival

Kaitland M. Byrd, June 2021

Disproportionate Minority Contact

Paul Ketchum and B. Mitchell Peck, September 2021

Out now in the series:

The Death of Affirmative Action?

Racialized Framing and the Fight Against Racial Preference in College Admissions

J. Scott Carter and Cameron Lippard, March 2020

Find out more at

Beer and Racism

How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It

Nathaniel G. Chapman and David L. Brunsma

Foreword by

Anthony Kwame Harrison

First published in Great Britain in 2020 by

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ISBN 978-1-5292-0175-8 hardcover

ISBN 978-1-5292-0179-6 paperback

ISBN 978-1-5292-0177-2 ePub

ISBN 978-1-5292-0176-5 ePdf

The right of Nathaniel G. Chapman and David L. Brunsma to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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This book is dedicated to the people and their communities whose voices, experiences, and stories related to beer and brewing in the US have been erased and ignored. Beginning to uncover and recover such stories along with the people who lived them is a central part of ‘why it matters.’ It is our hope that this book will shed light on those stories and provide a broader context for understanding the deep-rooted racism that was, and still is, so prevalent in the brewing industry. It is but a beginning—a preface of sorts—to a larger narrative of our troubled history with race and beer. We hope that this is the beginning of a conversation.

The movements to change the dynamics of race and racism in the brewing industry have their roots in the social movements of the past. The contemporary movements taking place today across social media and within the industry itself—and those movements yet to come—have helped to craft the narrative of Beer and Racism. There are many stories yet to be told, and even more yet to be written. As we wrote this book, a new narrative was being crafted. It is actively being crafted as you read this. It is a narrative that is hopeful, optimistic, engaged, critical, and, most of all, diverse. It is our hope that, in some small way, this book will be a passage written in this #newnarrative. Onward and cheers!


  • About the Authors viii

  • Acknowledgments ix

  • Foreword by Anthony Kwame Harrison xi

  • Series Editor Preface xv

  1. 1Brewing Up Race 1
  2. 2Racism, Brewing, and Drinking in US History 27
  3. 3The Making of the (White) Craft Beer Industry 49
  4. 4The Paths to Becoming a Craft Brewer and Craft Beer Consumer 75
  5. 5Exposure, Marketing, and Access: Malt Liquor and the Racialization of Taste 103
  6. 6Gentrification and the Making of Craft Beer White Spaces 131
  7. 7#WeAreCraftBeer: Contemporary Movements to Change the Whiteness of Craft Beer 155
  1. Appendix A:Respondents to the Semi-Structured Interviews 181
  2. Appendix B:Interview Protocol 183
  3. References 185

  4. Index 203

About the Authors

David L. Brunsma is Professor of Sociology at Virginia Tech, USA, where he researches race, racism, and whiteness. He is founding co-editor of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity and has a book series by the same name at University of Georgia Press. He lives, loves, and drinks beer in Blacksburg, VA.

Nathaniel G. Chapman is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Arkansas Tech University, USA. His research examines the ways in which craft beer consumption relates and intersects with race, class, and gender. He is co-editor of Untapped: Exploring the Cultural Dimension of Craft Beer (West Virginia Press, 2017).


We would first like to thank our friends, families, and colleagues, without whose support, expertise, and endless hours of conversations—along with a few beers—this book would not have been possible. We would also like to thank our colleagues who took time from their lives to review the book and provide invaluable feedback. There were many of you, and your feedback on the original draft of the manuscript provided validation for what we were doing, critically pushed us to think harder about a wide variety of angles, and presented us with new insights that we had not considered. Thank you for this. While the peer reviews (some 15 of them!) made the book stronger, they also laid bare just how much work there is yet to do regarding the inquiry into race, racism, and beer. While we could not incorporate all of the ideas, critiques, and insights, we look forward to the next iterations in this ongoing research and hope to do much of that work in collaboration with you all.

Most importantly, we would like to thank our informants. From its inception, the entire book was inspired by following and watching the groundbreaking work that you were all doing across the spectrum of the brewing industry. Your innovations, your tenacity, your drive against all odds in an industry that has worked exceedingly hard to exclude your communities for hundreds of years is awe-inspiring. We hope that this book helps to socially and culturally contextualize your experiences with beer and brewing, especially as they pertain to historical and contemporary structures of racism in the industry. Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences, and passion with us. Your voices resonate throughout this book and we are humbled to be a small part of telling your stories.

Nathaniel G. Chapman would like to thank David L. Brunsma, Anthony Kwame Harrison, and Slade Lellock. Your mentorship, friendship, and support have made a lasting impact. In many ways, this book is a testament to your influence on my scholarship. Thank you for encouraging me to explore the sociology of craft beer and supporting me throughout my journey as a scholar.

David L. Brunsma would like to thank Nate Chapman for, in many ways, introducing me to the intricacies of craft beer, and for his friendship. There are far too many people to thank for their support of this manuscript, its development, and its publication. The conversations, the published scholarship, the conference presentations, the ways in which the community pushes us all to more fully understand the social life of beer as a social and cultural object, the work it does, and the work it has yet to do, I am thankful for all of these and more.

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