Local women in craft beer share their thoughts after fallout from Brewing News controversy sinks National IPA Challenge

The reddish lettering in the upper left amounted to the totality of the initial announcement that the NIPAC was canceled for 2019.

The NIPAC is dead.

Over the weekend, in the quietest way possible, the Brewing News left a small note on the front page of the National IPA Challenge website that the annual competition was canceled for 2019. It was perhaps the final, inevitable outcome after last week’s national furor over a story by publisher/owner Bill Metzger that ran in the Great Lakes edition of Brewing News, a national publication with multiple regional editions that comes out every two months.

Metzger chose to resign over the controversy following the publication of his blatantly sexist/misogynistic story. He later claimed it was satire in a futile effort to save himself, but few in the national brewing community saw it that way. A number of New Mexico breweries withdrew from the NIPAC in protest, making public statements condemning Metzger.

From Bosque Brewing: “Hey, Bosque Family. It is with serious disappointment that, in light of a recent article published by Brewing News, we are writing to let you know that we are pulling our beers from the National IPA Challenge effective immediately.

“The sexist and racist remarks made by editor Bill Metzger were deeply upsetting and do not reflect our sincere belief that the brewing industry should be an inclusive community free of misogyny, racism, or any behavior of the like.

“This decision was a very obvious one to make, and we appreciate your understanding.”

From Canteen: “In response to the recent article published by the Brewing News and editor Bill Metzger, the Canteen Brewhouse has immediately pulled our IPAs from all categories of competition in the National IPA Challenge. The Canteen Brewhouse will never condone nor participate with companies that express sexist and misogynistic views. We work everyday to create a safe and welcoming space for people from all walks of life. We believe that the brewing industry and our brewing community has an important role in practicing and promoting dignified and respectful treatment of women. We encourage Brewing News to take responsibility for this odious article and reassure the brewing community that they will demonstrate inclusive views of women in all publications going forward.”

From Marble: “We do not share this person’s values, as such, we have decided to withdraw from the National IPA Challenge along with others in our brewery family. We are happy to learn of his resignation. Now back to brewing beer!”

From Steel Bender: “Steel Bender Brewyard is in the process of removing our two competition entries from the National IPA Challenge.

“The views expressed in the recent article by the publisher of Brewing News, host of the National IPA Challenge, are the antithesis of our beliefs as individuals and a brewery.

“Our decision is based on our belief that the craft beer industry is built upon respect, inclusion, collaboration, and good will. As members of an industry we’re proud to be a part of, we’d like to continue to encourage those ideals.”

For Tractor’s powerful response, keep scrolling.

Those withdrawals even caught the attention of local TV stations like KRQE and KOB. The response to the KOB Facebook post, was, well, horrific, with internet trolls immediately resorting to political attacks and accusing everyone of being snowflakes.

“KOB shared the interview on Facebook and it was just an onslaught,” said Marble social media director Leah Black. “I never had any idea that it would be negative. What the guy said was negative, but the (response) was negative toward me and Marble for pulling out of this competition. There was a, I don’t want to say gentleman, I want to say person, who called me many words, a feminazi, liberal, all these things. You could tell where politically he stood from everything he said to us. (He concluded with) there’s no room for any of this in the craft beer industry.

“What I basically got from that was there’s no room for women in the craft beer industry. What about in the restaurant industry? What about in the fire department? Wherever you are, you’re saying there’s no room for women. Did you just say that? Women are 51 percent of the population of the world and now we don’t just sit at home anymore. It was just really sad in my heart to hear someone say there’s no room for any of this. There’s women brewers out winning international awards.”

That all led to the cancellation of the NIPAC, an event won four times (2014-17) by New Mexico breweries, with La Cumbre sandwiching two wins with Project Dank around back-to-back victories by Bosque’s Scale Tipper.

It was a sad end, at least for this year, to what had been a fun competition. It has also become a teachable moment in that it shows that craft beer still has a ways to go to achieve great equality and inclusiveness.

We asked a number of the women working in the industry in New Mexico to offer up their thoughts on a busy Monday (no brewery treated Presidents Day as an actual holiday).

“As upsetting and appalling as Bill Metzger’s story was, I’d like to shift our focus to the future,” said Bosque director of culture and engagement Jesssica Griego. “I truly believe that this stand against sexism and racism from the New Mexican craft beer community was just the beginning of an even more inclusive and intolerance-free landscape, not only in craft beer, but in our state and beyond. I was proud when we won back-to-back NIPAC championships in 2015 and 2016, but those wins will never compare to the pride I feel every day working for a company, and in an industry, that stands up for what is right. The support is sincerely appreciated.”

Tractor Brewing co-owner/president Skye Devore wrote a powerful statement on Facebook back on Friday:

“I am a woman. I am an entrepreneur. I am a role model. I am a mother, a wife, a partner, a daughter, a friend and a Cinco. I am a brewer, cider maker and distiller. I am a human being.

“I am not satire. I am not locker room talk. I am not an outlet for your primal needs. I am not here for your viewing pleasure. I am not honey, sweetheart, sugar or baby. I do not need to smile.

“And I will not have my work judged by someone like Bill Metzger. Tractor Brewing Company has withdrawn our National IPA Challenge entry.”

We asked Skye some follow-up questions, even though she is quite busy representing the New Mexico Brewers Guild at the State Legislature in Santa Fe this week.

NMDSBC: Why did you feel the need to publicly speak out?

Skye: I was driving to Santa Fe after coming back from 10 days at CiderCon and the American Craft Spirits Association Convention. I could not get the situation out of my brain. We had requested on Tuesday that our entry be removed, but as I drove I realized that quietly bowing out was not enough of a statement. People (notice I did not say men) feel like it is okay to be “cute” at the expense of others because for generations we have been taught to be polite and walk away. Don’t be subversive. All that does is create a situation of approval of behavior by silence. I am extremely fortunate that I am at a point in my life and career where I can stand up and say that behavior is not acceptable. Many people aren’t. I have to set the example. Some have responded that I am a snowflake. If I were a snowflake and didn’t have thick skin, I wouldn’t be where I am and I would have just let it ride. It takes courage to do the right thing. If we are going to equate me to precipitation, at least let it be hail. 🙂

NMDSBC: What did you hope to accomplish by withdrawing from the NIPAC?

Skye: Initially, distancing myself and my brand from a jerk. I get to choose who I work with and I do not choose them. See above as well.

NMDSBC: What are your thoughts on the NIPAC being completely shut down and Metzger’s resignation? Is it enough?

Skye: I think that an event that we all look forward to has been decimated. That is very unfortunate for our brewers and many others. I feel very sorry for those at Brewing News who did not share those views and now might be economically impacted. But, I feel even worse that they had to work for someone like Metzger. Can you imagine walking into that mentality everyday and knowing that person signs your check? As far as it being enough … I don’t know that I am one to judge that.

NMDSBC: What does everyone in the craft beer scene — owners, brewers, media, customers — need to do to make it more inclusive and banish things like sexism and racism once and for all?

Skye: That is the hard part. I believe that in New Mexico we ARE very inclusive. That is why you saw the immediate and united reaction from so many. While I was out of town there were many remarks and workshops on inclusion. A friend in Arizona left the industry because of sexual harassment. Wow. Not saying New Mexico is perfect. By a long shot. But, I think we have mostly good players and the Brewers, Cider Makers, and Distillers Associations are working hard to make sure that resources are available. The public practices, such as naming beers inappropriate things, have definitely declined. It is now time to focus on the closet sexist/racists/fill-in-the-blank-kind-of-assholes that are lurking in the shadows.

Those are sentiments that all of us can get behind in making craft beer even better.

Kaylynn McKnight, one of two women working as head brewers in the state, spoke up on behalf of everyone at Toltec Brewing.

“We at Toltec Brewing were absolutely shocked and appalled when we read the Great Lakes Brewing News article entitled ‘Scottish Hopping to Real Ale.’

“We are female-run company — our brewer is a female, owner female, general manager, marketing manager, kitchen supervisor, all women kicking ass in this beer industry. We absolutely think that the views expressed in this article were distorted, and very saddening.

“There is no excuse for this blatant sexism and misogynistic attitude to show up on the front page of a beer magazine, or anywhere at all. We do not agree with any of Bill Metzger’s poor attempt at ‘satire,’ and think that his removal from the publication was quite appropriate.

“As a brewer, and long-time lover of beer, I have always enjoyed reading through various Brewing News publications, whether it be our Southwest Brewing news, or having family or friends bring back news from other regions. I still love reading Brewing News. It remains a great source of brewing updates, openings, closings, and various other tidbits. We hope that this incident has raised awareness in the brewing community, and that a blunder of this proportion will not happen again.

“On the subject of the NIPAC, we were very excited to participate in the competition this year. It would have been our first time entering, and we were very proud of our entry. We agree with and support the decisions of the breweries that pulled their entries, and that the correct call was made to cancel the competition this year.”

Shelby Chant, the marketing director at Steel Bender, also sent us her own take on the matter: “Where to begin? This all happened so fast … and it NEVER should have happened.

“When you guys (the NMDSBC) posted about the article last week, several of us started digging in. Thirsty Wench’s article did a fantastic job capturing outrageous key points. But, then I went on a mission to find the pulled article in its entirety. I think I was in disbelief that there could still be thinking like this, right now. It’s almost like I had to see the full context to believe this really happened.

“No matter how strongly I (and our family and our business) believe in freedom of speech, there’s also the belief in the freedom of respectful response to that speech. As my husband put it so well, freedom of speech, ‘does and should have a gravitas,’ and therefore a speech such as this ‘satire’ (air quotes intentional) will inevitably elicit a reaction. Our respectful response, reaction, was to approach this ‘satire’ (again) with greater scrutiny and responsibility because of its association with our chosen industry and our business, and remove our beers from competing and any association from the competition as it currently stands.

“We were welcomed with open arms into the local community. Our brewery, comprised of blood family as well as family gained two years ago and since in our staff, was built upon inclusion, collaboration, respect, and good will. And, what we’ve experienced since conceiving this place from fellow brewers, owners, and the community, only reinforced why we wanted to join this industry and will do everything we can to protect its integrity and support its success. Is there a right or wrong decision on anyone’s part in a situation like this? No, there really isn’t. But, we hope there will be a great deal to be learned from this experience from ALL facets.

“As a woman in this industry? Wow. What can I say? I’m 47 years old. I was raised to be a strong and independent, while sensitive and caring woman by both parents. I’m likely in my final ‘career’ working with my husband and two brothers-in-law who believe adamantly in the grace and class that can be found in me, as well as in their strong spouses when we are at our willful, opinionated, independent bests. And, I have not only never been happier, but have never felt more creative, positively challenged, and strong. It must be said, Bill Metzger’s article does NOT represent the tone I have personally experienced during my short time in this industry. He does NOT supply the ‘definition’ of the male in this industry. He represents himself only. And, as a strong female, I personally will stand just as strongly for the men in my life and the men I have been lucky enough to meet and know in this industry who stand alongside strong women.”

Thank you to Skye, Kaylynn, Jessica, Shelby, Leah, and everyone in the craft beer industry who stood up to say something about this controversy. If others chime in, we will share their thoughts here or on social media.

Now, as Jessica said, let us move forward and keep working to make this industry better for everyone.

— Stoutmeister

One Comment Add yours

  1. jwink3101 says:

    First, let me say that I am really proud of the New Mexico breweries for pulling out! It is/was the right thing to do!

    Second, I think what scares me the most is that his rant read more like the kind of thing that he wrote but intended to cut. (I am 100% speculating here). Imagine how many people actually feel this way but better censor themselves (or at least until they get to the voting booth)?! It makes me sick. Both as a man and as a father!

    I hope more people who feel this way slip up and get exposed for the scum they are! (who knows. it may even get them elected president!)

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