Events at Actual Brewing, while extreme, are symptomatic of issues within the industry

In February, Alive reported on the multiple allegations of sexual assault made against Actual Brewing founder Fred Lee. The day the story broke, Lee stepped down as CEO and Actual closed its new Clintonville taproom. A week later, the company filed for bankruptcy, and in May the remainder of its brewing equipment was auctioned off.

But for the local brewing community, the events at Actual led to a larger reckoning surrounding the treatment of women within the male-dominated industry, which writers Erin Edwards and Suzanne Goldsmith documented in a deeply reported feature for Columbus Monthly, which you can now read online in its entirety.

The pair writes:

In Columbus Monthly’s interviews with more than a dozen women who work or have worked in the local beer industry (some are named in this story, others preferred to speak on background), many say a reason victims and bystanders alike dismissed Lee’s actions was that his behavior was part of a broader, numbingly familiar pattern. To be sure, his alleged conduct was extreme, but it also was symptomatic, they say, of a service industry in which women are underrepresented and usually work at the bottom end of the pay scale in jobs where they are sometimes encouraged—often by male managers—to tolerate inappropriate touching and comments by customers and even colleagues.

More specifically, they say, craft beer presents particular challenges for women. Explosive growth has sometimes put people with little or no management experience in charge of rapidly expanding businesses. Last year alone, about 50 new craft breweries opened in Ohio, nearly a 17 percent increase from the year before, according to the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. A predominantly male brewing culture leaves some women feeling their expertise dismissed or devalued. Competition for shelf and tap space puts pressure on women in beer sales to tolerate bad behavior from potential clients in pursuit of sales. A youthful, bar- and taproom-based work environment, say some, blurs lines and creates a sense of permissiveness that makes it hard for women to set boundaries or speak up when lines have been crossed. The same blurred lines that can lead to an assault or harassment can result in the victim wondering if she is right to feel injured or violated. And intense competition for coveted jobs discourages women from rocking the boat by confronting or reporting harassment.

Read the entire article here.