Indigenous Brews Day 2020

Aanii (hello)! I am writing this on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe in the Robinson-Huron Treaty area. My name is Mark Solomon and I am a proud member of Henvey Inlet First Nation just south of Sudbury, ON. I know not many brewing articles start this way, but it is important. I am a homebrewer with dreams of turning pro in my retirement from working in post-secondary.  

June 20th, 2020 was the first hastily thrown together Indigenous Brews Day.  Eric Saulis (Wolastoqey), Seguin Sailor (Moose Cree) and myself (Anishinaabe) all had our own individual brew days scheduled for that day and we had been waiting for a chance to visit and talk. It was perfect. I brewed a lager using Mexican lager yeast, which I hope turns out! The event was a typical meet up on Zoom, but the importance of it was powerful. The following day was June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day, the longest day of the year and summer solstice. 

Solomon’s mash in for Indigenous Brews Day. Photo from Mark Solomon’s Twitter feed.

Many breweries are starting to address diversity issues both with their community support and hiring practices. Yet, noticeably Indigenous people are absent from many breweries diversity efforts. Granted when it comes to alcohol, the relationship is complex with Indigenous peoples. Navigating alcohol and Indigenous peoples will have to combat long standing prejudices developed through colonial eyes.  

Alcohol in the Indigenous community is taboo, because of the prejudices. That is a whole Ted talk that we can do another time. The absence of Indigenous presence in the beer scene is sad. Few breweries have ventured into this space. The three of us want to make the first step.

In 2015, Canada started a process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, but it first started with truth. Now that the truth is out, we need to work on reconciliation. Here’s a list of suggestions on how the homebrewing and brewing community can do that:

  • Call out on the offensive beer names that are still in the market.
  • Start homebrew meetings with a land acknowledgement.
  • Support breweries working with local Indigenous agencies.
  • Talk about the sacredness of water.

These are some easy steps to both address and rectify some of the systemic issues of our society. I will only volunteer myself to help but I suspect Eric and Seguin would assist too because that is good medicine. That conversation must be reciprocal. Many Indigenous traditions ask that when you ask for something there is an implied payment of a gift or relationship.  

For the next Indigenous Brews Day, our little community of Indigenous brewers will work on a theme for us all to brew with. Indigenous Brews Day will hopefully happen every change of the season and I suspect that i’ll be online for the next few. We hope that the day will grow with more Indigenous Brewers, more allies and more relationship building. We hope you can join us. We have had a number of people offering to help and many of you have helped us by tweeting, promoting and showing you care.

Diversity is hard but rewarding. Let’s move on to what’s next on this path.

Indigenous Brews Day was special. Miigwech (Thank you) Eric and Seguin for the visit. Let’s do it next season change.

Editor’s note: You can reach out to Mark by email, Twitter, or Instagram.

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