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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Beer Kulture Raises the Bar for Diversity in Craft Beverage Industry

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A 2019 headline in Food & Wine reads: “Craft Beer Has a Diversity Problem, Brewers Association Report Confirms.” This wasn’t exactly breaking news for our guest, who started tackling the problem years earlier.

Listen to the episode

A 2019 headline in Food & Wine reads: Craft Beer Has a Diversity Problem, Brewers Association Report Confirms.

This wasn’t exactly breaking news for Dom and Latiesha Cook, who for years have been working to combat the issue.

In 2017 the couple started Beer Kulture, a nonprofit headquartered in St. Petersburg whose mission is to make the craft beverage industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Both are Cicerone-certified beer servers; Dom is also the author of This Ain’t the Beer That You’re Used To: A Beginners Guide To Good Beer.

“Brewery owners would say, ‘Well, we don’t know how to reach out to people of color. There isn’t a way for us to reach them. Nobody’s applying for our jobs,’” Latiesha recalls. “And so we created our job board.”

In addition to the job board, Beer Kulture uses scholarships, internship programs and community partnerships to, as its tagline says, “change the world one beer at a time.”

And the movement is getting national attention, in articles everywhere from the New York Times to Forbes to the industry website Brewbound.

But not everyone is on board.

“The biggest challenge is still the people who still don’t see a need,” Latiesha says. “Even through all of this, there still are people who are like, ‘This is a made-up problem.’”

Regardless, Beer Kulture remains focused on partnering with craft beverage brands that celebrate diversity.

“One thing that we pride ourselves on is showing up as 100 percent our authentic Black selves in this space,” Latiesha says.

Breweries Latiesha Cook recommends in this episode:

  • Athletic Brewing Company: “They are a non-alcoholic beverage producer, so that was really exciting, especially because I work a lot. I don’t have time to drink when it involves high alcohol. So [Soul Sour] was really nice to enjoy.”
  • Green Bench Brewing Company: “If you’ve never had a beer at Green Bench Brewing Company, you have not lived life.”
  • Allagash Brewing Company: “They are so heavily involved within the community. It just tastes better because you know that your dollar is affecting your community.”
  • Zydeco Brew Werks: “Go there. Go there now. And have some of their food, too. They’ve got some bomb chefs in the back who make these New Orleans-style dishes.”

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