A Q&A with co-organizer Mark Solomon
Written by: Jessica Shadlock

With a long overdue light being shone on issues of racial justice and inequality, it’s more important than ever for us to take a close look at our own worlds (for us the local craft brewing industry!) and get curious.  Does our industry reflect the diversity of our local communities?  And who’s getting a seat at the table?  That’s why it’s so exciting to see lots of different initiatives popping up, focused on celebrating craft beer & the brewing experience within specific BIPOC communities.   Nothing brings people together like a shared love of beer, even if we’re only toasting across a patio or over video chat these days!  

One such event caught our eye on Instagram, via one of our co-founders Ren Navarro and we just had to find out more.   We caught up with Mark Solomon, one of the organizers behind Indigeous Brew Day, taking place Sept 20th.  The brew day connects Indigenous people working in beer to share their experiences and brew together (virtually at the moment.)  Mark is a homebrewer with a passion for bringing people together, and a member of Henvey Inlet First Nation.  He spoke to us about the Brew Day, his future plans and his favourite brewery.  

Co-organizer of Indigenous Brew Day, Mark Solomon

Tell us about Indigenous Brew Day. What’s the origin story?

Indigenous brew day came as a response to me feeling isolated in the beer world. There are a lot of complexities with Indigenous people and alcohol.  These complexities are from both within the Indigenous community and external perceptions imposed upon us. 

I knew that I could not be the only Indigenous brewer out there. I put messages out on social media and had an amazing amount of amplification. June 20th, 2020 was the first brew day with Eric Saulis, Seguin Sailor and myself. It was a nice mix of Indigenous peoples from different Indigenous Nations from all over Turtle Island. 

We want to visit, talk and show healthy relationships both with ourselves and alcohol. All are welcome; the brewers are Indigenous and act as panel members. Indigenous brew day is about community and visiting. In Indigenous communities visiting is so important to build ties. This day makes me feel at home and connected to the other brewers. 

For September 20th we will all be using Wild Rice, a rough ingredient to brew with but it has deep Indigenous roots.  Wild rice has a lot of history and rich connection to culture, all of which will be discussed on the brew day. 

What brought you to homebrewing? 

I have been a home brewer for a couple of years.  I have also had the privilege of brewing with Shacklands in Toronto for a couple of beers. 

I got into brewing because I have a dream of becoming a brewery owner as a retirement job. I work a high stress job in post-secondary and find brewing relaxing.   I wanted to learn about the craft, the community and the industry.

Do you have a favourite style to brew?

I don’t have a favourite style to brew, I really like variety.  I do however need some pointers on clarity (looking for hints –  I have tried everything lol)  

What is your favourite part about brewing?

I like brewing something and sharing it with friends and family. There is some point of pride serving your beer to people and having them enjoy it. I feel like I could get used to that. 

How has the pandemic affected or changed your plans for Indigenous Brew Day? 

I would have liked to do the event at a brewery but on Zoom it works too. It is very cool to have Indigenous peoples and allies all over connected to chat and learn. 

I am hoping that one day all of the brewers can sit in one room and visit at a table.  As Indigenous people we must be very careful to not expose our communities to any health risks as health care is poor in our nations. Many First Nations do not have drinkable water and proper health services are rare. So we must be mindful and careful for our communities.

Where do you see Indigenous Brew Day going in the future?  Are you planning more events/brews?

We plan to have one every turn of the seasons. I am hoping we maintain a strong focus on Indigenous culture. Whether that be with ingredients or theme or what have you. 

Do you have a favourite local brewery? 

I love Shacklands. It’s a place that is accepting of all peoples. They dedicated their third year anniversary to diversity. An Indigenous women’s shelter got the proceeds of the funds they raised. They had Ren Navarro and I speak at that event. It felt like home. 

Mike Solomon and Ren Navarro at Shacklands

What beers have you been enjoying most lately?  

I love variety and have been happy with Collective Arts Liquid Fest Beer. I also am in love with Raspbetty Bates from Shacklands

Where can folks go to learn more about Indigenous Brew Day?

Stay tuned to @up_north_brewing on Insta for more details!

Expanding Minds: Books and Beer Book Club

Mark and Ren are also hosting an Expanding Minds Book Club pairing books about Diversity with craft beer.  Sign up with the links posted at @beer_diversity on Instagram – space is limited to encourage discussion.  The first book is Seven Fallen Feathers on Sept 27th.