February 21, 2018

Will the real paradigm shifters please stand up?

Hi, I’m Katie AKA Muggs, one of the women who works at Modist Brewing Company. In April of 2016 I helped open the taproom, and within a few months found myself as their first sales rep for Minneapolis who was outside the ownership circle. In my interview for the sales position I told the team that I knew what I would be up against, seeing as I do not fit the bill of the industry standard ‘white male with a neck beard.’ With over a decade in hospitality, I was well versed in the male dominated industry and what that meant for women: sexual harassment, physical and verbal threats, being belittled and demeaned.


My experiences are certainly not unique to the hospitality industry, they are the all too common experiences of women in their daily lives. These experiences, whether traumatic or constantly sustained microaggressions, have resulted in me having a pretty thick skin. One that has streaks of moroseness and a hard shell of being outright jaded. But thick skin and hard shells make it difficult to grow, and the current status-quo of accepted behavior is obstructing not only the growth of individual women in the beer industry, but the industry as a whole.


When it comes to festivals, liquor store tastings, and even working in the taproom there is a broken record of questions that gnaw away bits of dignity and fundamentally question our right to be there. “Who are you married to that works at Modist?” Or my favorite, “Wow, that’s so cool they let you do this.”  I understand that these questions (most often asked by men, but women are just as guilty) come from deeply rooted societal and social norms that make it difficult to progress. But it doesn’t have to be this way.


It was difficult when I had my first experience in my sales role with a buyer who was disrespectful and inappropriate. It wasn’t difficult because it was a new concept to me, it was difficult because Modist was still a young company and I feared that speaking up would cost the brewery a much needed sale at a much needed account – but I knew I couldn’t keep what happened to myself. The day I brought up this particular instance I was conditioned to be met with a response along the lines of, “I’ll take over the account” from my boss – business above all else! Instead what precipitated was what every woman should be able to expect when presenting an issue of feeling unsafe or disrespected to such a degree.


There was no question or hesitation when my boss told me, “I’m so sorry that happened, they will not carry our beer as long as he works there.” At this point I had gotten to know my boss and the rest of the Modist crew well, but I was still stunned by this response. I’d like to say that I expected nothing less, because at my core that is the expectation. I have worked places where I expected and truly thought I had that support, only to be told to be quiet or be brushed off. It’s seemingly so simple, but having that support gave me the ability to be able to actually focus on my job and doing it well, instead of fearing what was coming next–what a novel concept.


While we have had to draw a hard line in the sand regarding some of the unfortunate situations I have been faced with, we can make steady progress in the beer industry by simply granting women the basic assumption that they have a right to be there. One way that you can directly impact and solidify that basic assumption the next time you encounter a woman at a festival, taproom, or liquor store tasting is to take pause before you speak to her. Ask yourself whether or not you are going to ask her something based on her gender. If the answer is yes, stop. Then consider asking her how she got into the industry. I’m sure it’ll be a great story, and for the amount misogynistic bullshit she puts up with she must really love beer, maybe you can learn something from her. Maybe she is there because she is married to or dating someone who owns or works for the company. That is okay too, just please do not assume that is every woman’s story. By leaving out these assumptions there is more room to talk about the reason you’re both there: beer.


There have been a lot of conversations recently breaking open the neat little seams that have sewn up the mouths of women for so long. When I brought up the idea of calling out misogynistic behavior on behalf of myself and the other women at Modist I was met with a resounding yes. The next step in moving forward for us as a company is to make it known to those outside of our walls, and make it known that this isn’t just limited to misogyny. It is about respect for fellow humans, whether in the industry or not. We want to be clear in stating that we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people.


We certainly aren’t a perfect group, but we all feel as though leading with respect is a great starting place. Stating our intentions of where we strive to operate from marks the beginning of us publicly interacting with the conversations happening right now that are helping to push the beer industry forward. We should challenge each other as companies to work respect into our policies and adhere to them, holding the dignity of company supporters and employees as the true bottom line. Paradigms don’t shift without some serious lifting. First we have to assemble a team ready to take it on together. Won’t you join us?


Cheers to the rule-breakers, misfits, and those fighting for a more equal future,




P.S. Here is Modist’s first take on a policy regarding respect. We invite you to take it as your own, and to add to it. This is a work in progress, let’s build this together.


Modist Policy on Respect

  • We lead with respect always. Whether in public or in our taproom, our staff will always be respectful of others and will never diminish another being’s dignity.
  • We will never be silent. If we witness someone being disrespected we will call it out and create a safe space, whether out in the world or within our taproom.
  • We will continue to fight for the future that we want to see in the beer industry (and the world) one that is innovative, creative, welcoming, and inclusive.