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Beer Town: Monday Night Brewing responds to a political backlash

Earlier this month, Monday Night Brewing allowed the Georgia chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business to host an event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp at its main brewery on Atlanta’s Westside.

The reaction and counter-reaction was a swift, often-vitriolic social media debate that spiraled into calls for a boycott of Monday Night and its beer.

That caused the three co-founders-owners, Jonathan Baker, Jeff Heck and Joel Iverson, to admit they hadn’t really thought hard enough about their decision.

In response, Baker, Heck and Iverson put out an official statement titled “Our Core Beliefs”: mondaynightbrewing.com/our-core-beliefs, including a section titled “We believe in the beauty of diversity.” And later, they held a public Q&A session at the Garage, the brewery’s barrel-aging and event space on the Beltline in southwest Atlanta.

Recently, I called Baker, who is Monday Night’s chief marketing officer, and we talked about the Kemp controversy, and the role of craft breweries during a time of social and political upheaval.

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“The whole experience was eye-opening for us,” Baker said. “We didn’t realize the extent to which we were expected to be involved in social and political issues. But I think there’s something about craft breweries where people see them as flags. And because they’re so geographically bound, they can also become shorthand for how people define themselves and their values.

Monday Night Brewing co-owner Joel Iverson tests out different yeasts while helping to produce a batch of Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale at the company’s warehouse in Atlanta. Iverson said a provision in the U.S. Senate GOP’s tax proposal could save his company roughly $60,000 a year. PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“And so there’s this responsibility, that I think we took too lightly, to honor that, and to dig a little deeper. We put out the statement, and that does reflect our thoughts and our hearts. And now, we’re trying to go back and be a little more thoughtful about how we tackle the specific kinds of issues and policies that we outlined.”

Asked why the core beliefs statement didn’t elaborate on more specific issues to begin with, Baker said that wasn’t its purpose.

“It wasn’t very concrete, and that’s because we didn’t want to just make up a bunch of stuff,” he said. “We realized we need to have a lot more conversations, not primarily internally, but externally with people in the community where these issues matter.

“So we’re having meetings now, one-on-one to start, and then in more group settings, to put together a strategy around Monday Night’s role in social and political issues. But it’s a process, and we’re hoping to nail something down this year to roll out next year.”

After listening to Baker, and reading more social media threads and news reports, my take on the Monday Night Kemp controversy is that the craft beer community reflects our society in general right now.

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