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How craft beer’s #MeToo moment inspired a scholarship for beverage students from underrepresented backgrounds

For a long time, says Jennifer Pereira ’11 MBA, if you didn’t have flannel and a beard, you weren’t included in the craft beer scene. And those few female brewers who shattered the glass wall between the taproom and the production floor? They often suffered sexism in silence.

“I think any woman in the beverage world has experienced it,” says Pereira, an associate professor at Johnson & Wales’ College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT). “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t.”

In May of 2021, the industry’s whisper network roiled to a shout. Brienne Allan, a Massachusetts-based brewer whom Pereira knows from the Pink Boots Society nonprofit for women in the industry, asked her Instagram followers to share the sexist comments they’ve experienced at work. Thousands responded with harrowing stories of harassment, assault and, in some cases, rape. Four years after the movement began, #MeToo had come for craft brewing.

Later that month, allies in the Rhode Island beer community gathered at Fortnight Wine Bar in Providence to discuss ways to end sexism, sexual harassment and sexual violence in their industry — where, according to Brewers Association data, only 7.5 percent of brewers identify as female.

My daughter’s generation expects diversity and demands equity and they’re not shy. But that doesn’t mean [the problems] don’t exist. Jennifer Pereira ’11

Pereira was one of 50 in the mixed gender group, which would organize into the Rhode Island Diversity, Equity and Action (RIDEA) Committee, and she brought an idea for real and measurable impact: A scholarship to attract women and students from diverse groups to Johnson & Wales’ beverage programs — because it’s not just women who are underrepresented in the industry, and it’s not just craft beer that has a diversity problem.

Beginning this June, students enrolled in a beverage-related major, minor or certificate program at Johnson & Wales can apply for two annual RIDEA beverage scholarships amounting to $2,500 each. Candidates are asked to submit essay or video applications describing their experiences with discrimination and how they’d work to fight it in the industry. If fundraising efforts are successful, the first round of scholarships will be awarded this fall.

The funding is especially critical for students in the 11-week certificate programs, who are ineligible for financial aid and, in craft beer brewing, are 90 percent male. The undergraduate program is about 60 percent female, Pereira says, but she knows of students who go through school only to be shut out of production and diverted to a bartending position in the taproom. “When they’re undergraduates, it’s insular,” she says. “They go out into the industry, and it’s very different.”

Pereira tries to see the world from the vantage point of her daughter, who is in her first year at JWU. Her generation is welcoming in a way that befits the industry, Pereira says. After all, people don’t make beer; yeast does (and yeast, Pereira adds for good measure, doesn’t have a gender). “My daughter’s generation expects diversity and demands equity and they’re not shy. But that doesn’t mean [the problems] don’t exist. My hope is to enable them to be the change makers,” she says.

RIDEA Craft Brew Collaborative Label designed by

This winning label was designed by Katie O'Brien '22. Fellow design classmates Cameron Eaton '22, Rich Tombs '22, and Elise Fitzgerald '22 also contributed to this project.

Some already are. The RIDEA scholarship is partially funded through the sale of “Silence Is Not Golden,” a Trappist single developed by JWU brewing capstone students with a label by university design students. Last fall, Pereira and design department chair Deana Marzocchi guided students as they workshopped recipes and corresponding graphics for three distinct styles of beer. In early December, the students presented their work to industry professionals at an event at the Culinary Museum. The winning brew was developed by students Corinne Tillinghast ’22, Katie Brophy ’22, and Brendon Swanson ’22. The label, created by students Katherine O'Brien '22, Richard Tombs '22, Cameron Eaton '22 and Elise Fitzgerald '22, has a 1970s aesthetic.

“It was a way for students to contribute to the scholarship, too," says Pereira of the cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

Brewers across the state will use the recipe and labels for their own batches, of which 15 percent of proceeds will benefit the scholarship. “Will [the scholarship] change the entire industry? Probably not,” Pereira says. But if any place is primed for a sea change, it’s the Ocean State.


Kate Goodson ’20, a graduate of Johnson & Wales’ certificate program in craft brewing, is intimately familiar with change.

After earning a degree in animal science from the University of Rhode Island, she volunteer-farmed in France and Kenya; tended livestock and veggies for New England operations; and, eventually, found her way to hops via a flower farm, which she harvested for bouquets.

On stateside weekends, she’d brewery-hop with her mom or friends.

“I fell in love with the concept” of craft brewing, she says. “I’d home brewed for years but I wanted to be better. I wanted to learn more.”

Kate Goodson ’20

Kate Goodson ’20

Goodson enrolled in the certificate program in 2019 and, not long after graduation, became lead brewer for the woman-owned Proclamation Ale Company in Warwick. She initiated a yeast propagation program and develops recipes informed by her courses at Johnson & Wales. “I never envisioned I would be so lucky so early on,” the 28-year-old says. “I was sitting in a classroom and now I’m running a brew house!”

She acknowledges the industry has a long way to go in supporting brewers from underrepresented backgrounds. She’s confronted bias herself, from visitors underestimating her ability to coworkers underestimating her strength. “I can lift twice my body weight,” she says. “I’ve also had people want me to work for them just because of my gender. I think that’s crazy.”


Goodson joined the RIDEA Committee to push Rhode Island’s brewing industry to a more diverse and, in turn, more inclusive, place. In March, she collaborated with RIDEA co-founders Jamie Buscher and Erika Tessier for a Women in Brewing industry night at Durk’s B-B-Q in Providence.

“It’s an issue that’s existed since the beginning of time and it’s getting better, but at a turtle’s pace,” says Buscher. “I know people who want to turn brewing into a career and don’t have connections. It took a lot of privilege for me to go as far as I have in this industry.”

Buscher, who heads up brand management for local wholesaler Craft Collective, says her introduction to craft beer was borne out of the sexism she’s working to eradicate. As a college senior, she won a modeling competition for Narragansett Beer’s annual pinup calendar. Shortly thereafter, she joined the team as a marketing intern. “Part of my feminism is that if women want to take sexy, confident photos, they should,” she says, adding that by the time she rose to marketing manager at the company, the calendar felt antiquated and was phased out.

The employee who did my exit interview told me that women don’t make it in the industry unless they’re the wife or daughter of someone who’s made it. Jamie Buscher, RIDEA Co-founder

Buscher credits Narragansett Brewery’s leadership for their efforts to move the industry forward; its head brewer, Lee Lord, is one of the founding members of the RIDEA Committee. But Buscher felt underpaid and, eventually, opted to leave for other opportunities. “The employee who did my exit interview told me that women don’t make it in the industry unless they’re the wife or daughter of someone who’s made it,” Buscher says, adding that the employee suggested she work for a national brand like Coors or, barring that, move on to start a family.

RIDEA co-founder Jamie Buscher

Jamie Buscher, RIDEA Co-founder

Buscher says she doesn’t believe ’Gansett is inherently discriminatory or sexist. But that exchange still motivates her to keep up the fight. The committee is planning a festival in May and encouraging more breweries to produce “Silence is Not Golden,” all of which will support the JWU scholarship. In year two, the committee hopes to host free educational programs and trainings to help breweries establish human resources offices, create anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and recruit candidates from underrepresented groups.

“It’s definitely hard and it weighs on me a lot sometimes,” Buscher says. “But if we could just get more people of diverse backgrounds, change is going to happen. That’s why this scholarship is so important.”


One March evening, Buscher welcomes industry professionals to a RIDEA Committee meeting over Zoom. She shares progress for the first RIDEA Festival, a beer-tasting fundraiser showcasing New England breweries owned by women, people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ+. The event is scheduled for May 14, , and a member offers to connect Buscher with Brockton Brewery, a Black-owned brewery based in Massachusetts. Buscher mentions she’s reached out to Provincetown Brewing Co., the region’s foremost gay-owned brewery.

Ticking off her to-do list, Buscher adds the event also needs a portable bathroom and tables — another member volunteers their extra ones. Buscher barely veils her enthusiasm; free tables means more funds for the scholarship, for which they’ve raised about $3,600 through a GoFundMe campaign and popup events. They still have about $1,400 more to go before fall.

A couple of weeks later, Buscher and two other RIDEA Committee members, Alex Czekalski and Michelle Leach ’17 from the Guild brewing cooperative in Pawtucket, are behind the bar at Hera Gallery in Wakefield for its annual Spring Fest. Czekalski’s sister, Sonja, runs the feminist art space and facilitated the group’s sale of donated beer to benefit the scholarship. Leach, who studied pastry arts at JWU, runs the taproom at the Guild. Now, she uses her baking expertise to collaborate on special brews at the Guild, including a cinnamon bun ale.

The committee is a way of acknowledging that maybe we’re not done if we keep having the same problems Alex Czekalski, RIDEA Committee Member

Czekalski, who is one of two women in the Guild’s production crew of about 50 people, believes the industry has come a long way in recent years. “The committee is a way of acknowledging that maybe we’re not done if we keep having the same problems,” she says, citing a Brewers Association statistic that just 2 percent of brewery owners identify as women.

But on this spring night, in one of the nation’s first female art cooperatives, three craft beer professionals are “womanning” the bar: greeting patrons, answering questions, pouring brews and sharing information about their efforts to improve an industry they love. And, by the end of the night, they’re $310 closer to their goal.

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