Diversity on tap: Mass. Black-owned breweries partner on HCC scholarship initiative

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  • CJ Eldridge, co-owner of Arcpoint Brewing Co. in Belchertown, helps can and label a small batch of “As One” at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield on Monday. The IIPA was created by Arcpoint, White Lion, 67 Degrees Brewing and Crue Brew Brewing to fund a scholarship for Holyoke Communty College’s brewing program with the aim of helping people of color break into the craft beer industry. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • CJ Eldridge, co-owner of Arcpoint Brewing Co. in Belchertown, helps can and label a small batch of “As One” at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield on Monday. The IIPA was created by Arcpoint, White Lion, 67 Degrees Brewing and Crue Brew Brewing to fund a scholarship for Holyoke Communty College’s brewing program with the aim of helping people of color break into the craft beer industry. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    CJ Eldridge, left, co-owner of Arcpoint Brewing Co. in Belchertown, and Mike Yates, head brewer at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield, can and label a small batch of "As One" at White Lion on Monday, March 29, 2021. The IIPA was created by Arcpoint, White Lion, 67 Degrees Brewing and Crue Brew Brewing to fund a scholarship for Holyoke Communty College's brewing program with the aim of helping people of color break into the craft beer industry. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • CJ Eldridge, co-owner of Arcpoint Brewing Co. in Belchertown, talks with Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cans of “As One” come off the line at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    Ray Berry, left, owner and founder of White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield, talks with Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal at the brewery during a canning run of "As One", a limited release IIPA created by four local craft breweries to fund a new HCC scholarship, on Monday, March 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal, foreground left, talks with Ray Berry, right, owner of White Lion Brewing Co., and Dinesh Patel, owner of Tower Square, where the brewery is located, during a canning run of "As One", a limited release IIPA created to fund a new HCC scholarship, on Monday, March 29, 2021, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    CJ Eldridge, left, co-owner of Arcpoint Brewing Co. in Belchertown, talks with Ray Berry, center, owner of White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield, and Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal during a canning run of "As One", a limited release IIPA created by four local craft breweries to fund a new HCC scholarship, at White Lion on Monday, March 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    A label for "As One", a limited release beer created by four local craft breweries to fund a scholarship for Holyoke Communty College's brewing program with the aim of helping people of color break into the industry. Photographed at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield on Monday, March 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    A label for "As One", a limited release IIPA created by four local craft breweries to fund a scholarship for Holyoke Communty College's brewing program with the aim of helping people of color break into the industry. Photographed at White Lion Brewing Co. in Springfield on Monday, March 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 3/31/2021 3:16:52 PM

SPRINGFIELD — For anyone interested in cold, tasty beer, here are some sobering statistics:

Out of some 8,000 breweries in the United States, only 60, or less than 1%, are black-owned businesses. In Massachusetts, a virtual hopbed of craft beer with more than 200 breweries, only about a half dozen are black-owned. One of them is White Lion Brewery in Springfield.

“The fabric of the craft beer trade doesn’t mirror the fabric of the communities we work, play and live in,” says Ray Berry, White Lion’s owner and founder, who sits on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild.

In response, Berry and the owners of three other Massachusetts breweries — Arcpoint in Belchertown, Crue Brew in Raynham and 67 Degrees in Franklin — have banded together on a project they hope will draw more people of color to the industry.

The project is called “As One.” Fittingly, it’s a beer, specifically, a New England IPA. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this limited release brew will go toward the creation of a scholarship at Holyoke Community College for students of color who enroll in its beer, cider and winemaking program.

“Throughout the country, there have been a number of initiatives driven by breweries, trade stakeholders, and guilds who recognize the diversity and inclusion deficits and want to be change agents,” said Berry. “Some of those initiatives happen to be scholarship driven.”

The idea for “As One” came from C.J. Eldridge, co-owner of Arcpoint, who had read an article about the experiences of Black Massachusetts brewery owners in a historically white-dominated industry. The story featured interviews with Berry and Kevin Merritt, owner of Crue Brew, and also mentioned 67 Degrees, which is co-owned by Arnold Cruzeau.

“I saw all those guys in the article and it inspired me to want to get together with them and brew something and also bring some awareness,” said Eldridge. “We want to attempt to spread brewing out to more people of color, not necessarily just Black, but people of color in general, and get them into the business. Let them know what it’s about.”

HCC debuted its beer, cider and winemaking certificate program in the fall of 2020, so the decision to partner with the college made sense, said Berry.

“Craft beer is all about local,” said Berry. “If we want to expand the conversation, this is a perfect opportunity for us to align ourselves with a great local institution.”

The label for “As One” includes the names and logos of all four breweries plus HCC’s, along with a poignant description: “As One, a collaboration of unity, is just that. We came up with a conversation starter, something to bring people together ... As many of you may or may not know, people of color make up approximately 1 percent of ownership in the craft brew industry. To this end, we have teamed with Holyoke Community College to create a scholarship for their brewing program. The financial aid will help people of color break into the industry that is far underrepresented. We hope you enjoy this beer with open minds and open hearts.”

“We are very excited about the pipeline of talent that this scholarship program could generate while also helping to break down barriers, open doors, and hold them open for people of color in our community,” said Katie Stinchon, executive director of the Mass Brewers Guild. “As an industry we are very aware that the makeup of our brewery owners, staff and consumers are predominantly male and pale. This is a great step to work to change that, and something that can be emulated in other regions and institutions across Massachusetts. ”

The scholarship, as yet unnamed, will be administered by the HCC Foundation.

“Every scholarship tells a story about why someone feels it’s important to give back, or what they hope to make possible with the establishment of the fund,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the HCC Foundation. “The scholarship that will be created as a result of this brewery partnership is so powerful because it’s all about creating opportunity, and it’s a real example of people coming together to create positive change. HCC students can see themselves in each of these business owners and realize that they, too, can chase and achieve their dreams.”

“A lot of people of color, they’re gonna be like, oh, damn, look at these guys here, just like me,” said Eldridge. “They’re pumping out beer and working together for something like that.”

Although the batch is small, the goal is to make the brewing of “As One” a special, annual event that will continue to seed the scholarship fund at HCC over the years.

“It’s not a one and done, that’s for sure,” said Berry.

Chris Yurko is the media relations manager at Holyoke Community College.


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