The beer industry inspires community. Around the country, breweries gather like-minded individuals to share food, drink, and connection. But not all breweries contribute equally; there those whose work makes outsized contributions to these goals, even when one takes into account their typically larger-than-average size.

In Portland, Maine, Allagash Brewing Company promotes clean water and a healthier environment. Vermont’s Lawson’s Finest Liquids prioritizes the health and well-being of its employees. And New Belgium, creators of Fat Tire and Voodoo Ranger, champions both environmental and human rights.

As part of Hop Culture’s Beers With(out) Beards Digital Craft Beer Festival, we were lucky enough to hear from both Katie Wallace, New Belgium Brewing Company Director of Social and Environmental Impact, and Patrice Palmer, New Belgium Brewing Company’s Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. As part of the Beers With(out) Beards keynote presentation, they provided a compelling case for how and why breweries can and should implement more diverse, equitable, and inclusive programs.

What Is New Belgium Brewing?

New Belgium Brewing is a brewery founded by Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1991.

Since its founding, New Belgium has taken significant steps to be one of the best and most environmentally-friendly places to work in the country, awards given by Outside Magazine and SEAL Business Sustainability Awards, respectively. In 1998, the brewery announced plans to offset 100% of its electricity through a Fort Collins, Colorado, wind-power program. And the past two decades have brought even more forward-thinking initiatives.

What Has New Belgium Brewing Done For Social and Environmental Justice?

In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, New Belgium Brewing has gone above and beyond what most people would consider the responsibilities of a brewery to create one of the most environmentally and socially-friendly companies in the world.

In 2004, the company hired Katie Wallace, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student who joined the company as a business analyst and systems development specialist. Then, In July of 2018, the brewery promoted Wallace to Director of Social and Environmental Impact, tasking her with building climate action, diversity and inclusion, wealth equality, land & water protection, and community elevation into the business model.

Then, in October 2019, the brewery hired Patrice Palmer as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Four years prior, Palmer had started as the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at Colorado State University’s College of Business, working their way to full-time Director of Social and Cultural Inclusion in September of 2020.

How Did New Belgium Contribute to Beers With(out) Beards?

Before Palmer even began working for New Belgium, Hop Culture had started conversations with the brewery about BW(O)B. Our Head of Partnerships, Grace Weitz met Joanna Laubscher, Operations Coordinator for New Belgium, at GABF 2019. And the two immediately connected over the brands’ shared missions to support diversity, inclusion, and equitability in the craft beer industry.

As we transformed BW(O)B into a digital event, we immediately knew we wanted to include a keynote presentation as a part of the festival programming. With New Belgium’s now recent hire of Palmer, the team felt like the perfect fit.

When our digital BW(O)B 2020 launched on Saturday, Oct. 10th it was almost one year exactly to the day from Weitz and Laubscher’s first conversation. As we all know, an incredible amount has happened during those 365 days. But, with New Belgium’s support, we’re all continuing to champion and pioneer the important issues and actions driving our industry forward even during a global pandemic.

Perhaps Palmer said it best during her presentation. “Words without action just become manipulation.” With that in mind, we highly encourage you to find your own way to affect the community. For our part, we’ll continue planning and hosting new BW(O)B festival. And, with the support of breweries like New Belgium, the future indeed seems a little righter.

Head to for a full recap of the Beers With(out) Beards 2020 events.

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