Strong Women Day Beer brews unity

Strong Women Day

Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is a project in community building as much as it is a brewery. It takes a large group of dedicated regulars to give life to an organic brewery, especially in a market as small as Santa Cruz. This is as much their place as it is ours. Our main goal has been to make great beer and to enjoy it with our friends, whatever their background or beliefs may be.

Historically, we have never taken too overtly a political stance as we have wanted to create a space comfortable for all organic beer drinkers, but there has always been something of a liberal slant to the community building we've elected to do. For example, we have held fundraisers for a wide range of groups (including: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, SPCA, Women In Science and Engineering, and many more), but we have never hosted a group with explicitly conservative politics, like the NRA. This has much more to do with the groups we want to support than it does any people we choose not to associate with, but there is a politics involved in that decision making process.

The brewery is a collection of people, but it is spearheaded by Emily Thomas a self-avowed advocate of strong women. This likely derives from many influences (a line of strong women on her mother's side, a liberal arts education at Lewis and Clark College, working as an engineer in a male-dominated tech industry, and more), and takes a number of different forms. One of the ways you might have guessed that this was a brewery with liberal values was in the tag line: Strong Women Brew Strong Beer. Of course being organic reflected that from the start.

The Thank-You Thursdays we held (donating a dollar from every pint sold to a community organization), the larger fundraising events (Sausagefest and Twisted Tasting chiefly) were direct outgrowths of this belief in fostering social change by supporting people doing positive things for the community. While these actions brought some attention to the brewery in the form of press, it never received any backlash. Nobody voiced their opinion that a brewery should not give money to promote good work. People came, fell in love with the beer and the space, and became regulars.

It was only during this recent election that this changed. The Bernie Sanders organizing committee chose the brewery to host some of their events and we were happy to have them, though we did not officially host them. Then we aired the debates and were surprised at the throngs of eager folks filling up the beer garden to watch and listen to the candidates. After a brutal election season, after the results were in, we decided to ask our audience on social media if they wanted us to show the inauguration or not. The responses poured in and it was eminently clear that the people who weighed in wanted us to not show it. To announce their decision, we made a post that declared SCMB would be a Trump Free Zone on January 20th.

All of the sudden, a large group of angry conservatives began spamming our sites with hateful comments. Where did they come from? Why did they only weigh in after the decision was made? All of the sudden we were being accused of being polarizing, of being stupid by introducing politics into our business plan, and a whole host of other things we did not like, want or expect. Causing us to pause for a moment, we assessed what had happened and tried to be thoughtful about how to proceed without opening up a forum for fighting online.

Mainly, we decided just to go back to business, back to making great beer to supporting people we admire and to serving our customers the best we can. The event inspired two new things, though: a shirt that states "Beer Brews Unity" and the expansion of the Strong Women Brew Strong Beer day to a more inclusive Strong Women's Day. The former is our gesture of solidarity to all of our customers, because we truly do enjoy a wide range of people and love the way beer brings together people who would otherwise never meet. The second was intended to highlight our advocacy of strong women in all fields of activity. This is to admit that there is inequality in our culture and that we are proud to be on the side of groups seeking more equality.

So, this year, in addition to doing a collaboration brew with other women brewers, we also had a postcard writing station for people to contact their representatives, a pink hat knitting station for people who wanted to make Pussy Power hats, and a dollar from each pint went to four different groups that do work to support women in our community. Ultimately, we want our brewery to be a place for everyone to relax and enjoy good beer and company, but we also have fundamental values that we will continue to support, too. Here's to the next Strong Women's Day, and to everyone who wants to support this kind of community building.

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