The craft beer industry is expanding in Canada, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, yet Ren is still considered a unicorn. As a queer Canadian Black woman born to Trinidadian parents, Ren challenges the norm with her mere presence, knowledge, and passion for beer. Her mission is to make craft beer approachable for a more diverse audience.
Approximately three years ago, a reporter conducted a study and discovered that Ren was the only queer black female sales rep in the beer industry in Ontario. There are a few now, but Ren says the low numbers are problematic. Canada prides itself in being multicultural, but certain sectors, don’t reflect it.
The typical Canadian beer commercial features a lot of plaid, and a lot of white dudes. There is a disconnect between beer marketing tactics and consumers, Ren says, and her goal is to help the beer world become more diversified, inclusive and progressive. Ren explains that promoting diversity and inclusivity is simple: breweries need to take the initial uncomfortable step to engage and possibly recruit new clientele.
Ren began her career in the finance and insurance world, but after feeling dissatisfied in her career, she decided to go back to school while starting a part-time job at Great Lakes Brewery. Choosing beer as a full-time career, wasn’t an easy decision; she was back and forth from brewery jobs to insurance jobs, to pay her bills.
Finally, she landed a full-time gig in beer sales, and it’s been everything beer ever since. Ren says she fell into co-founding the “Beer Drinking Ladies”’ society, which is celebrating their fifth anniversary this year. It’s a Toronto-based monthly beer event that provides a safe and relaxing atmosphere for female-identified people.
Ren recently launched her website Beer Diversity in May 2018. Within eight months of business, Beer Diversity has significantly impacted the city of Toronto and beyond. Ren says her first time speaking about beer diversity in a public setting, was at Black Creek Community Farm. The event was open to the general public, anyone that was interested in learning about beer diversity was welcomed. The first event was sold out and had over a hundred people in attendance, from various races, eager to learn and be involved in diversifying beer. Ren took a leap of faith last year and left her full-time sales job, to run Beer Diversity full-time.
Currently, Ren’s career has taken her into consulting for restaurants and bars, collaborations with breweries, public speaking and employee training.
Ren says she likes beer so much because it’s accessible, and there is a lot of variety. Ren says the beer industry has evolved; beer isn’t just for the blue-collar working man anymore, it can be fancy and high-end. Ren advises breweries to use their social media platforms to create space for diversity and inclusivity. Her advice to breweries is to actively reach out to various demographics and help them feel included and valued. Her advice to anyone seeking to enter the beer industry is to seek out breweries, visit them, learn about the beer and develop relationships with brewery owners and employees. She also suggests volunteering at beer festivals and putting yourself out there for potential opportunities.
You can check Ren out at beer-diversity.com to learn more about beer diversity and to find out when and where she will be speaking next.
Kezia Royer Burkett is a creative freelance writer with a degree in communications and multimedia from McMaster University. When she is not writing she is finding inspiration living life, raising her son and spending time with friends and family.