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Fermly Blog

  • Writer's pictureFrances Tietje-Wang

Fermly Recommends: Beer and Racism

Updated: Apr 4

A beer tells a story, but whose? Brewing has a rumored lore that is frequently equated to old barrels and lederhosen, but that isn’t history. The reality is that brewing has been used as an object for political mechanisms to divide people by class and race, ultimately to the detriment of society, for many centuries. We can see this reflected in the political machinations in US history. 

An example is Prohibition, one of the most notable social experiments in US brewing history, was not just about temperance. It was based on anti-immigration, anti-semitism, and anti-black racism, sanctioning white terrorism via organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. It is one of the first examples of “pressure politics” where incendiary propaganda and intimidating politicians were utilized to further segregation efforts. 

However, the story changed when it was realized that specific communities of color are excellent targets for marketing campaigns for cheaper, lower-quality beverages. Athletes and rappers were hired to advertise products like malt liquor (bigger bang, less buck) to the detriment of colored communities. Malt liquor, in recent years, has been repossessed as a symbol of “nostalgia” for the white community, dismissing recent history and yet appropriating the music brought about by it. Will the memory of malt liquor go towards kitsch like only preserving Prohibition via signs about people wanting to have a beer? 

Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters, and the Movements to Change It backs up its arguments and points with research that creates a thorough and compelling read for change, pulling the reader through history in the pages to the scrolling social media feed. There is no other way to keg it than to say that this is a valuable read for any fermentation fan for having craft beer’s real story represented through interviews with the people who have had to survive politics and propaganda to enjoy it, and the cultural and economic manifestations to change it. 



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