Hopportunity Awaits is a brew on a mission to help highlight careers in craft beer, and inspire more of us to hold the door for the unique talent among us, creating more pathways for diversity, in every sense, across every role. Partial proceeds will benefit Craft x EDU as we work together to launch an educational grant for emerging professionals in craft beer.
On the cans, you will meet 10 industry professionals who are ready to tell their remarkable stories of how they got their start and paved their own path in craft, rules be damned.
Without further ado…
Meet Barb Baker, Siren of Stout, brilliant beer coach, and TV personality.
How did you discover the world of craft beer, or what inspired you to join?
I had spent decades participating in competitive sports and once I closed that chapter of my life, and moved to Michigan, I wanted to continue to be involved in something I felt passionate about and got serious about the intricacies of craft beer and fermentation. I noticed there were tons of breweries in Michigan with more opening up each day. Each with their own flair, unique styles, vibes and culture.
When I first started going to breweries, at first I didn’t really notice that I was sometimes the only woman and always the only woman of color in these spaces because I had always been “the only one” in a lot of spaces throughout my life. I had been taught at a young age from my Mom that “no matter where you go, you belong”. So it wasn’t a huge deal…at first.
As I continued my craft beer journey, I wanted to meet, see and socialize with more like minded women. I also had an insatiable appetite to acquire more knowledge about the industry. So, I started looking around and heard about a meeting from “Fermenta, a Women’s Craft Collective”, a local non-profit trade group founded by women, committed to education, networking, diversity, and empowerment within the fermented beverage and food industries.
After my first meeting, I immediately asked Founder, Stacey Roth, if I could join. I was like, “where have these women been?!”
They were brewers, educators, Cicerones, and sales reps. Tracey Kusz, Treasurer at the time said, “We don’t have a newsletter, would you like to create it?” Six years later, I’m still editor of the newsletter, and am also the Vice President.
What do you love about the craft beer community?
There’s three things I love about the craft beer community.
Community, culture and camaraderie. From the very first brewery I experienced, to today, I have felt welcomed. Everyone’s experience is vastly different and I know not everyone feels that welcomeness, which is why I feel so very passionate about my work in helping to make the craft beer industry accessible and welcoming to everyone.
It excites me to do more, ask more questions and delve deeper into the industry. I have been very lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had thus far.
Where would you love to see it grow or improve?
In terms of growth, here’s what I think the craft beer industry could do.
Most importantly, keep on this path of equity. All of a sudden, more breweries are saying, “We want diverse customers. We want diverse employees. We want to think outside of the box, AND we want to weed out the garbage.”
We need more of everyone in the brew house…African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, Aboriginal Americans. Being more inclusive will give more opportunity for folks to bring their cultural nuances, their spices and their fresh ideas
I have been very lucky to be a part of many awesome beer collaborations. These are businesses that really want diverse ideas, opinions and participation.
I JUST released “Screaming Pumpkin Stout” a Pumpkin Spiced Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with Griffin Claw Brewing Company (my hands my STILL smell of ginger) and another beer collaboration with Five Shores Brewing called the “Black Business Series.” I came up with the idea, and bounced it off of owners, Matt Demorest and Oliver Roberts and they loved it.
The idea? We put out a different beer that helps promote and market a local black business and give back a percentage to the local community. Also, the recipe process incorporates the culture or fresh ideas of all involved.
The first beer “The Siren of Pastry Stout” was made in collaboration with 24th Cheesecakerie. It was a sweet potato pie beer, and speaks to my southern heritage. The second release, “Saldhana” a West Coast Sorghum IPA was brewed in collaboration with Kuma Oforie-Mensa of “Kuma Brews.” His parents are from Ghana, so he made the recipe using South African Hops and sorghum.
Tap Takeaway >> Craft beer is a great space to introduce communities to diverse palates and perspectives. Learn more about Barb’s black beer business series idea here.
What types of skills have helped you personally succeed in this industry?
My personality, that I can get along with everyone and that my background is in sports. Who doesn’t love sports? *wink* I was a hurdler in college and majored in Sports Broadcasting, and still do commercials and TV hosting. Being in the entertainment industry has given me the confidence to speak up when needed and just become more comfortable with everyone.
I also try to absorb as much as I can about this industry, and continue my passion to know more.
Who in the craft beer industry do you admire?
The person who I admire the most is Annette May. She is an Advanced Cicerone, BJCP judge, and overall badass. She’s also a mentor for the Brewers Association Mentorship Program, which I was chosen to participate in as well.
Her support and care is unrivaled. She’s actually someone who really had me step up my game. You can have casual industry knowledge, but she is somebody who really takes it a step further. She’s inspiring, highly educated, honest, and witty.
As far as someone in the beer industry, everyone loves and respects her too. She was also one of the first women in the United States to get her Cicerone certification.
Tap Takeaway >> Curious about getting your Cicerone certification ? Learn more here.
What is the most memorable brew you’ve ever had?
Most memorable brew? The very first beer I’ve ever had. A Heineken.
The Story…I was a college sophomore in an anthropology class, and some hot guy sat next to me, and I wondered, ”why did he sit RIGHT next to me?” He was that hot.
A couple classes go by, (he sits next to me every class) and he was like, “Hey do you want to come to a fraternity party?” At that time, fraternities were segregated, so I was a bit taken aback.
I thought, “Should I go to this party, is this even safe?” I got a few girlfriends and we went.
Walking in, everyone was great to us, and we were feeling very welcomed. The first thing a guy inside asked, was “do you want liquor or a Heineken?” I chose the Heineken. It was crisp, it was cold, it was delicious.
Everything about that beer was spectacular because the time we were having was also spectacular. That’s what makes it memorable.
Beer is 50% taste and 50% the time you are having with it.
See what the siren is up to here: https://sirenofstout.com/
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Click here to meet more of our talented rule-makers and read their remarkable stories. Once you hear what they have to say, you will realize that yes, you can brew it too.