The trajectory of online outrage often goes as follows: Someone says something shitty, people inevitably get pissed, OP claims it was a “joke” or “satire,” but allows that “I’m sorry if you were offended.” In a culture finally reckoning with rife misogyny, the word “feminazi” and jabs at the #metoo movement have become hallmarks, too.
Recently, the trade publication Great Lakes Brewing News inspired all of the above. In a piece titled “Scottish Hopping To Real Ale,” publisher Bill Metzger writes about finding cask ale in Scotland, which sounds pretty unobjectionable at first. Somehow, though, the piece starts with a paragraph about how #metoo has curtailed his “primal self,” then goes on to discuss cask ale in terms of sexual conquest. Sample sentiment: “Today’s rules put men like me in the equivalent of a feminazi re-education program instead of ceding to my genetic makeup and behaving like that great seducer.”
In a case of this-could-have-been-predicted, the craft beer internet quickly registered their disapproval. Brewers and other industry folks called out Metzger’s “misogyny and hatred” on social media, as reported by WKBW Buffalo. In response to this understandable backlash, Brewing News first pulled the piece from its website and issued a statement explaining that the piece was satire and reflected the views of a “fictional character.”
But the criticism continued. Over 2,200 people have signed a petition calling on advertisers to pull their support of the publication and readers to trash their copies. Now, according to Forbes, Metzger has announced that he will resign from his position as publisher of the Brewing News national consortium and will give up his 50 percent stake in several of the regional papers that refuse to continue working with him.
“Bill’s reckless action has destroyed the reputation of these papers and hurt the writers,” Metzger’s former co-owner Jamie Magee, who will retain sole ownership of the regional papers, told Forbes.
Although it’s no longer on the Brewing News site, the piece was re-uploaded and broken down by blogger Robin LeBlanc of The Thirsty Wench, so if you want to read Metzger’s allegedly satirical ramblings, you’re in luck. If you’d rather skip over the full experience for the sake of your blood pressure, allow me to summarize: It’s a story about traveling around Scotland drinking beer, interspersed with quips about the author’s talent in bed.
A statement from Metzger, also shared in the Facebook post from Brewing News, explained that he was attempting to impersonate the sort of “reactionaries” who support President Trump. The goal was to parody “a disgusting attitude that I have seen often,” he wrote.
But even if it is a work of parody, Metzger’s piece fits into a craft beer culture where sexism is often all too real. A 2016 survey of almost 2,000 breweries found that only four percent had a woman as head brewer. With so few women in positions of power, problematic behavior can go unchecked. As writer Jeff Alworth wrote in a 2018 post on Beervana Blog, “walking into a brewery is something like entering a locker room.”
The #metoo movement has helped bring to light just how rampant sexism and harassment have been in the craft beer industry. As women have pointed out on Twitter, the controversy over Metzger’s piece comes less than a week after Columbus Alive covered allegations of sexual assault against the CEO of Ohio-based Actual Brewing. Less than a month ago, Good Beer Hunting investigated sexual harassment at Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery, amidst larger, industry-wide concerns.
“I really hope that the people who think sexism isn’t as prominent in the beer world as women claim it to be will read this and think that maybe, just maybe, we’re not making this stuff up,” LeBlanc wrote in the blog post.
Still, the craft beer community’s quick response to Metzger’s piece is a sign of progress, according to Kaleigh Leingang, a Sales Manager at Minnesota’s Insight Brewing. “The landscape has changed drastically and has become miles more inclusive than it used to be (even though there is still lots of work to be done on this front),” Leingang told MUNCHIES in an email. “The industry knows it’s so much better off leaving antiquated sexist values where they belong: the past.”
To Leingang, the craft beer industry’s quick response online is proof that it’s working to better itself. “‘Be a good person and do your job’ is the industry’s golden rule. When one person strays from this rule, we all work to right the ship,” Leingang told MUNCHIES.
Ultimately, even if Metzger really did intend the whole thing as just a joke, the industry isn’t laughing.