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 Ashlie Randolph, a lover of beer rooted in culture & tradition and co-founder of Lifting Lucy, a non-profit committed to supporting BIWOC in beer.
How did you discover the world of craft beer, or what inspired you to join?
I attended my first beer festival, the “Great Vegas Beer Festival” hosted by Motley Brews, after hearing an expat friend in Jamaica lament about the lack of “good beer” on the island. Growing up in a Colt 45 household, I was resolute in my belief that all beer was gross. But I decided to go to this festival to test that. I was very studious about it with my little black book to track which beers I had had from which breweries and what I thought about them.
I didn’t know craft beer could be so creative and diverse in its styles. After that day, I was hooked! It was at that festival I learned about Barley’s Angels and Pink Boots Society. It was at my first Barley’s Angels meeting where I met Sarah Perez and really started expanding my social circle in the local craft beer industry. Meeting more members of the Las Vegas Pink Boots Chapter encouraged me to show up and participate in meetings and events, even though I wasn’t a full-time industry employee, which was a requirement at the time for Pink Boots.
I remember when Hop Nuts was getting ready to open. They specialize in IPAs, and I’m not a huge IPA drinker myself. But when I found out that the co-owner was a woman of color, I was like, “I’m coming! I need to meet you, I need to talk to you.” And the beauty of Vegas being a small town dressed like a big city is that it’s not hard to find people and foster those relationships. I enjoy meeting new people and making new connections.
The next beer festival I attended was a Rock Star Beer Festival which I went to by myself again. I was standing in line waiting to get in and I saw this Hispanic gentleman flanked by three or four really tall African-American men on either side and they all had matching shirts. It was just this sea of melanin that floated past me and I was like, “There’s other black people here?!” I literally left my spot in line and chased them through the casino for a solid two minutes before catching them and asking, “Hey, are you guys here for the beer festival? Can I hang with you guys today?”
From there we just kept going to beer events together. And eventually we founded Mo’ Betta Brews – our beer-based social club dedicated to supporting opportunities for people of underrepresented backgrounds to explore craft beer at festivals, tastings, and local beer-centric businesses.
As I learned more about the industry, I started volunteering. I volunteered for the Motley Brews Beer Festival where it all started. I volunteered with them for a few years and learned what it took to stage a beer festival. At first, it was for selfish reasons. I wanted the inside scoop of what breweries were coming and where they would be set up at the festival. But it did help me continue to make connections. I got to talk to all the breweries that were there and some of the vendors about their experiences. While I enjoyed helping put together a two-day beer festival, I realized that I would rather attend than work them. Eventually this all led me to creating Lifting Lucy to support BIWOC in the beer industry through events and educational opportunities.
What do you love about the craft beer community? Where would you love to see it grow or improve?
As much as I love the spirit of camaraderie and collective focus on a strong industry, I cannot ignore the great lack of truly equitable inclusion of members from underrepresented communities. I am very excited to see how the craft community will evolve to make this happen.
I think the first step is removing barriers of entry and encouraging new faces to join across various roles. Sometimes people don’t realize how much the industry needs them.
When I was trying to enter the industry, I was hitting apply, apply, apply, and crickets. I would show up for every event that beer-related businesses had. And I participated in professional development opportunities such as Cicerone Courses. For me, it was just a matter of making sure that my face was seen which was one way to go about landing a job in craft beer. But looking back, I think I should have taken a step back. I would’ve asked myself, “What am I passionate about and how can I bring that into the industry?” We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We all have talents and skill sets that can fill a void in the industry, because it is there.
With all of the things that I’ve been doing with Lifting Lucy and some of the work that I’m doing on the board of Pink Boots Society, there are things that are in my back pocket that I don’t always think about because they’re things I’ve been doing my whole life. Whether it’s being a part of the NAACP, economic development with the Urban Chamber, or advocacy work for differently abled individuals. We need a more diverse industry that starts with who we see representing breweries and related companies. My advice would be to not discount yourself. The industry needs you!
In one of the “town hall sessions” Danii Oliver (formerly of Island to Island Brewery) hosted in conjunction with her tenure as a Pink Boots Society Board Member session, there was an African American lady who said, “I really love beer. I want to be in craft beer, but I can’t give up my job to pour beers in somebody’s brewery. We just simply asked her, “What is it that you do?” and she said, “Oh, I’m in the compliance department for my local government.” And I’m like “UM… Craft beer is nothing but compliance!”
What skills helped you succeed in this industry and what advice would you give others looking to get started?
Organizational skills, event planning, community engagement, entrepreneurial experience, a strong passion for culinary experiences, experience working with social justice causes and nonprofits have all helped me. I’ve understood business from a very early age, it has always been in my toolbox.
The advice I would give is to pursue what you are passionate about, instead of shape-shifting to fit a mold. If you do that, opportunities will come effortlessly. I used to want a full-time beer job so badly. I was writing so many cover letters, but it was reaching for anything rather than something I am suited for. It’s much more rewarding now realizing that and being in the industry in a way that lets me shine.
Who in the craft beer industry do you admire?
Hands down Celeste Beatty of Harlem Brew South! She’s been a mentor and friend to me since I fell in love with craft beer almost a decade ago. She is living proof that my destiny to open my own brewery rooted in culture and history is possible. When I first met her, I was so humbled that she would take the time to talk to me. All these years later, I often find myself thinking, “How did I get here? I went from reading about her on a plane to her checking in on me!”
What is the most memorable brew you’ve ever had?
Indra Kunindra was the first beer I had that showcased ethnic flavors in a beer. It really sparked my imagination and sent me on a journey to bring international flavors that I cherished to beer.
Where can we catch Lifting Lucy over the coming months & show our support?
Tranice Watts, Sarah Perez, and I founded Lifting Lucy. Our mission is always to support BIWOC in industry events and educational opportunities through sponsorships and access to resources. Our organization is honored to support North 5th Brewing (a female, Mexican-American owned brewery in North Las Vegas, NV) in featuring at this year’s Great American Beer Festival and look forward to doing our part to increase the number of BIWOC-owned/operated breweries who are able to compete in the future.
KEEP IN TOUCH!
Tranice Watts and I will be speaking at the Craft Brew Connects September 12th-14th and the Lifting Lucy crew will also be at the Fem Ale Brew Fest in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Come out and support! Or follow us on social media!
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.