Barrett Tillman, brewer at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., works on pulling samples from barrels before opening to taste and catalog the beer for future release at Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas on Friday, September 22, 2017.

Barrett Tillman, brewer at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., works on pulling samples from barrels before opening to taste and catalog the beer for future release at Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Dallas on Friday, September 22, 2017.

Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer

When Barrett Tillman recently bottled a homebrew with yeast harvested in Dallas, he was reading headlines about racially charged protests in Charlottesville, Va.

He wanted to acknowledge Dallas' own history as a racist Southern city and named the sour beer Wildlife Protest. It's about nature rebelling against what you expect it to do, Tillman says.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s brewer, Barrett Tillman poses for a portrait with one of his homebrew sours, Wildlife Protest.

Deep Ellum Brewing Co.'s brewer, Barrett Tillman poses for a portrait with one of his homebrew sours, Wildlife Protest.

Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer

His homebrew bottles all carry the same label, a profile view of an African-American man wearing a ballcap. He uses the logo, along with the name Black Man Brewing, to sell wild yeast cultures to homebrewers online.

It's a drawing that he's had since high school, and although the image isn't meant to be a self-portrait, Tillman, who also manages the specialty brands at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., admits it looks like him.

"I carry that black face everywhere I go," he says. "For me to have a company, it should reflect that black face."

Picture a craft beer drinker, and you're likely to fall into a stereotype that's oft-repeated in advertising, pop culture and even craft beer marketing: a bearded, flannel-wearing white man.

Reliable data on craft beer demographics is hard to come by, but the two biggest trade groups in the industry -- the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association -- both say the lack of diversity in craft beer is concerning. The trope of the lumberjack white guy swirling a snifter is at least partially rooted in reality.

"Unfortunately, it's a stereotype that's grounded in a little bit of truth," says Scott Metzger, founder of San Antonio's Freetail Brewing Co. "The industry is not as diverse as it should be within its employee base and within the customer base."

Metzger leads a new diversity committee with the Brewers Association. That committee was formed at the association's conference this past spring and is working to improve issues of diversity in brewers and drinkers.

As a Hispanic man, Metzger says he was particularly interested in volunteering with the diversity committee. He's sat through plenty of panels about how to make craft beer appeal more to Hispanics, millennials and women, but he didn't see how it related to him.

"We definitely are out of whack right now," Metzger says. "We have decades of work ahead of us. There's no overnight solution."

Barrett Tillman, brewer at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., takes notes as he tastes an oak aged Belgian pale ale called Vinous Ado.

Barrett Tillman, brewer at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., takes notes as he tastes an oak aged Belgian pale ale called Vinous Ado.

Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer

Tillman says he's used to being the only black guy in a craft beer bar. Sometimes, that means being served slower, or having a bartender who underestimates his beer IQ.

"That's what the experience is like, and you have to be OK with that," he says. "When I walk into a craft beer establishment, I don't expect to see people who look like me."

That's not because minority populations aren't drinking, Tillman says, but because craft brewers need to do a better job marketing to diverse audiences. That means adjusting his recipes to appeal to a wider consumer base.

Tillman remembers his first beer with his dad, something bland and light in the days when Billy Dee Williams was the spokesman for Colt 45. He made DEBC's Deep Ellum Lager to appeal to people who had similar experiences with lighter beers, and Neato Bandito to compare with Mexican lagers like Corona or Dos Equis.

"People like me need to be more comfortable welcoming themselves in an environment that doesn't look like them," he says. 

"We can't be afraid of taking our black face wherever we go. We can't be offended to take our culture wherever we go."

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