By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown & Uptown News
San Diegan Megan Stone was honored in the Craft Beer Marketing Awards as the first-ever recipient of the ‘Woman of the Year’ Award in 2020. Industry peers selected her for the award based on her experience as a brewer, marketer, social media influencer and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) advocate.
“I put these efforts in because it’s things that I care about and I don’t necessarily sit there and think about l how people think of me or how popular I am. It was just nice to know that people appreciated the work,” Stone said. “I think it’s nice to have a woman of the year category because it shines the light on the different people that make up this industry.”
Stone started in the craft brew industry as a server and became fascinated with the process of brewing.
“That’s where my obsession with beer started. I just thought it was so interesting how unique beer can be,” Stone, who is non-binary and uses she/her and they/them pronouns, said. “As a seasonal server, my orientation was a brewery tour, and after the brewery tour I was just in complete awe and in love with everything and decided that I wanted to be a brewer, so I propelled myself into that world.”
During their breaks, they would read books on brewing and eventually entered an employee brewing contest which they won alongside more experienced brewers. From there, Stone transitioned into brewing full-time.
After moving to San Diego from Delaware, Stone began the Instagram profile with the ‘isbeeracarb’ handle that would launch them into social media popularity and a new career. Stone has over 33,000 followers who view beautifully shot photos of her interests, including beer, fashion, travel and colorful hair. In addition, Stone shares some of their experiences as a member of the LGBT+ community in a male-dominated industry and advocates for inclusion that helps people from all backgrounds thrive.
“I’ve always been a very creative person and a very visual person so it was definitely a natural occurrence. I didn’t seek out anything from Instagram. I wasn’t looking to be Instagram famous or an influencer it just sort of happened… And then from there, all these opportunities arose,” she said.
“As a female in the craft beer industry as well, I applaud Megan Stone’s efforts,” said CBMAS co-founder, Jackie DiBella in a press release. “We’re here to support her endeavors, and equally proud to honor and celebrate the amazing efforts our industry has contributed in our new category for human rights.”
Stone’s burgeoning popularity on Instagram led to another career pivot from solely brewing into running social media, marketing and consulting for breweries across the nation and even internationally.
Like when she first became interested in brewing, Stone took to reading everything she could find and listening to podcasts about marketing. Despite never enjoying school and even dropping out of high school, Stone loves to learn in hands-on ways.
“I just like to immerse myself entirely in that world. I love learning and that’s one of the things about brewing is you’re constantly learning and same with marketing — trends in the industry are constantly evolving so it’s really stimulating and challenging and that’s something that I really enjoy,” they said.
As she used her knowledge to help friends with small businesses, Stone found new opportunities to be a part of the beer industry as a marketing consultant and social media manager.
Stone has worked for San Diego breweries like Refuge, Mikkeller, Modern Times and Societe. Stone brewed collaborations in Panama and the U.K. In 2019, she founded a DEI apprenticeship at U.K.-based Laine Brew Co.
Beyond advancing her career, Stone used her platform to discuss problems she and others faced in the largely straight, white male industry. Stone said they always cared about equality and that they have focused on issues in the craft beer industry for the last few years because they are already so passionate about it. Advocacy was not something she initially sought out but started in response to other people making her feel she did not belong.
“I definitely had a lot of great experiences and a lot of great people in my life and great mentors, but sometimes the people who are not so great are a lot louder,” Stone said. “I try really hard to change people’s perspectives… I didn’t want to have a platform that was just beautiful photos. I wanted it to have some sort of impact. I realized that I had this platform and this sort of reach with an audience and that it was very useful in encouraging people to be better and to do better.”
The CBMAS recognize 34 beer-marketing categories that celebrate the best of craft beverages. Presenting sponsor, Hillebrand supports CBMAs’ mission to honor the individuals and teams that promote beer industry growth through innovative and creative marketing.
“I’m so glad Megan was nominated for this award. Her passion is contagious. She is a human rights warrior!” said CBMAs co-founder, Jim McCune in a statement.
In 2020, CBMAs extended to judging hard seltzer, cider, and mead. New categories have been added and the awards competition now includes entries from all over the world to be judged by 330 industry professionals.
— Reach Kendra Sitton at firstname.lastname@example.org.