News / Halifax

Halifax brewery program changing the 'white guy' face of craft beer one batch at a time

Good Robot's CommuniBrew series invites people of all ages and backgrounds into the brewing process - for free.

Kelly Costello, CommuniBrew coordinator, poses for a photo at Good Robot Brewing on Tuesday.

Haley Ryan/Metro

Kelly Costello, CommuniBrew coordinator, poses for a photo at Good Robot Brewing on Tuesday.

A unique program at a Halifax brewery aims to change the white, male face of craft brewing by bringing average citizens into the process.

Kelly Costello has led the experimental, small-batch CommuniBrew series at Good Robot Brewing on Robie Street since June, but began learning the trade herself last fall while studying to become a cicerone (beer tasting expert).

Costello, 30, said she loves the recipe-creation aspect of brewing and the sense of community in the industry, but as she continued going to beer festivals it was tiring to see the “same face every time” - white guys behind the kegs, surrounded by white guy friends.

“There’s nothing wrong with white guys, it’s just they’re not the only ones who have the ability to make beer,” Costello said Tuesday at Good Robot before the latest CommuniBrew launch.

“They might be right now the only ones with the know-how, but there’s no reason for that … It’s sort of homogenous, so I thought the more people who know how to make beer, the better it has to get."

Anyone with an idea for a small-batch CommuniBrew beer can sign up to join Costello for a roughly five and a half hours of brewing, all free since Good Robot provides the ingredients and Costello the expertise.

Each batch yields about 40 litres, are released on Tuesdays, and can last on tap anywhere from two hours to a few days, depending on how much people love it.

Although her colleagues in the Halifax beer scene are supportive of female brewers themselves, when she does run into sexism Costello said it’s usually those detached from the industry who are “surprised” to see a young woman making beer.

So far Costello said she’s had one man make a sexist joke while she was trying to share information, but she “shot him down really hard.”

When asked about the importance of calling out that behaviour, Costello shakes her head with a small smile - “It’s exhausting, but it’s true.”

The latest batch released Tuesday, Reclaiming My Time, was made in collaboration with Betabrewster (the term for citizen brewers) and journalist Evelyn White (who is Black) in a nod to African American U.S. Congresswoman and vocal Trump opposer Maxine Waters.

Evelyn White posing for a photo at Good Robot last year

Metro file

Evelyn White posing for a photo at Good Robot last year

The sweet stout, which has lots of chocolate and honey malts, attempts to recreate a "Mackeson" brew White used to drink years ago.

Although it might seem intimidating to begin, Costello said the only way to diversify the industry is to “not be afraid” and have people of all backgrounds start with home brew kits, or walk into Good Robot or neighbourhood breweries if they’re stumped - “someone will know and help you along.”

“We all benefit when more beer is made,” she said with a laugh.

How to brew: Email Kelly Costello at kelly@goodrobotbrewing.ca to get on the CommuniBrew list.

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