Regarding Mikkeller Fest 2020, now 2021:
Mikkeller as an organization has had some issues, the claims are serious and I have no reason to doubt them. A safe work environment, physically, mentally, in all aspects is and should be the standard and frankly isn’t that hard. Don’t be a jerkwad, apologize if you make a mistake, respect the people around you. That is all that needs to be said about that, no excuses, people aren’t perfect but good and bad are clear as day.
Here is where I get into nuance, if you are interested in Cycle’s decision making process regarding a wide range of things, including this, read on. I am interested in hearing more about what people want to see and keeping a dialogue open because if this was a simple problem I think we would have seen decisive action sooner, and maybe we can find that solution someday. At no point am I wavering from the first paragraph as my position and I think my actions live up to that pretty well. I can only control my own actions so it is easy to approach things I have choices in with the above ideals but when I am interacting with others I have to accept that they aren’t me and I can’t control them and we are better off if we can work together in this world so compromise and finding common ground are worthwhile. I do have some choice in which breweries I work with and I absolutely do make decisions based on whether the ownership or brewer has integrity, sometimes I find out after the fact which is always disappointing but it makes decisions in the future quite easy. I try to never say anything negative publicly about any other brewery, after all who am I to judge for anybody else, but to say that I take this lightly or ignore red flags with other breweries is patently false.
Regarding the Mikkeller festival specifically:
First, there is the obvious outrage and feeling that Mikkeller has some reckoning to do and there will never be enough nice words to excuse the actions. I think that follows naturally and damn right, take whatever action is open to me because fuck these breweries treating staff like shit. That sits and percolates in my gut, I don’t know if it will ever really go away because, yeah, fuck that bullshit, hire that brewer again and let me fire him this time.
Boycott the fest? I can just not go to Copenhagen, that is pretty simple to do but here is where I run into a little internal conflict, a little whisper that says breaking commitments is bad, you don’t usually do that. That’s true but surely this is a good reason right? Generally speaking, yeah, I will never go to certain festivals because of who runs them, just add it to the list. Problem solved, but what have I accomplished? I have saved myself a trip and made a statement that feels good but is ultimately meaningless. The beer is there, the tickets are sold, the people that will be the worst affected are the attendees of the festival, not Mikkeller. There is also the feeling that boycotting now will close that door forever, which regardless of the circumstances is sad.
We have participated for many years and it started as one of the greatest honors of my young brewing career. Taking my beer, to Europe, to pour for fans I didn’t know existed, and the relationships that started at that first festival was a real turning point for Cycle. I still think of the festival as Mikkeller supporting me, giving Cycle a great opportunity to share beer with a huge craft beer community that we rarely get to interact with. With the recent events, it would appear that we also need to think about how Cycle is supporting Mikkeller by being part of the festival, but from where I sit now it is still hard not to feel appreciation, and hard to communicate to you what a big deal that first invitation was. Rightly or wrongly, I never considered what Mikkeller or Mikkel himself was up to, never even crossed my mind, I was just ready to go and share beer in a cool place with a lot of other people I highly respect at a venue we are generally known to be at for as long as we are invited.
With the above in mind, we signed up, filled out forms, got beer into kegs, shipped it out and got paid months ago. We sent all BA beers this year because we were sending them months in advance. I can’t say I have kept up with the craft beer news during the pandemic, I have kept my eyes down on what we are doing with rule changes, PPP loans and audits, COVID infections in staff and myself, school with my kids and all of those changes, as long as we were keeping the doors open that is all the craft beer news I have been interested in. I think that was a lot, but I guess I missed this development and that brings us to the facts of this matter. The beer is in Copenhagen, it has been purchased and we can’t stop Mikkeller from doing with it as they see fit. If I don’t go, it gets represented by whomever is around that probably works in the Mikkeller machine people are boycotting, if I do go I am somehow supporting toxic work environments but I would get to represent my own beer on my terms. This is the decision I have to make and where if you read this far perhaps you would like to know how this is being weighed.
I haven’t made a decision about attending in person but the beer is there so in a way I feel like I will be there, in beer form or human form. When it comes to what is right and wrong in a workplace I have a clear picture but when it comes to how we move forwards from anything like this it gets blurry. I can’t make decisions for Mikkeller, I can’t know what is actually going on regarding the changes they have made. I have what Mikkeller has posted and what appears to be positive, some of them concrete, moves to prevent some of these things in the future. I also don’t know the details of all of the allegations, some are specific and as far as I can tell got specific responses and some are at least in the reporting I have seen more vague and difficult to get a satisfying response to. I had to ask myself from the perspective of a business owner how I would address these things, of course I asked my employees as well, and so far satisfaction remains elusive. There are examples much closer to home that handled things much differently and/or their toxicity never made the headlines at all that continue to operate and enjoy success without ever lifting a finger which is even more disgusting than a brewery that from the information I have, is at least trying. Changes are pretty obvious, but they take time to reap rewards and often aren’t interesting to read about. I have only been faced with a real workplace issue once, I am still disappointed in myself for not acting faster, but after that I can’t say I would have a whole lot to offer. I don’t know how to honor and acknowledge outrage in a way that gives it the satisfaction to be replaced with forgiveness.
Now I have to consider what is the best outcome, and right now I see more hope for Mikkeller than not. There has been some change hasn’t there? I am interested in more thoughts on how appropriate it has been so far and if there are thoughts for next steps but they did the obvious stuff and I think we can acknowledge that without excusing the past, and if we never do give credit, even partial credit and encourage breweries to do more then I think we are destined to keep repeating these situations without hope for moving forwards.
Regardless of what I do about attending the festival, Cycle is a safe workplace for employees, I am not perfect and I am sure plenty of people have criticisms and I am sure most of them are deserved. I listen, I respond though not usually publicly, and I make changes that need to be made and accept criticism of changes that I am not willing to make as well. Keep in mind that I am a white man from the Midwest, a walking cliché in this business, I really don’t have a lot to say that is of extra value on this because I can’t escape who I am. I am still learning that I need to shut up and listen more, that the fact that I think I have something to say is a product of who I am not because my thoughts have some intrinsic value. I only now offer this after being questioned on participation and feeling that I owe our customers and fans an explanation, even if I don’t have any resolution yet.