The following is a guest post written by the President of Highland Brewing Company, Leah Wong Ashburn, who also serves as an appointed, volunteer member of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.

I’m not white. Despite living in the same skin for 50 years, I did not identify as not white until a couple months ago, when I asked my husband of nine years, “Do you think of me as white?”


His answer was faster and clearer than my own.

I’m half white, half Chinese. My stepdaughters might say “What even IS that color?” So, let’s call me a person of tint.

Race can be complex even within myself.

The Black Lives Matter movement, locally and globally, spurred me to explore my thinking about racial identity in more depth. The thoughts and conversations that came from that introspection energized me to listen and learn more about race.

Pursuing a more formal education and deeper recognition of systemic racism, I discovered a talk from the brewing industry’s leading equity and inclusion speaker, Dr J Nikol Jackson-Beckham. I listened to her session at the national Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference where my father was honored with the Recognition Award this year (as only the 34th awardee on the planet and the only non-white recipient that I’m aware of) and I was elated!

Her words made sense. Not only did they stimulate my own rumination, they also provoked great dialogue on how I might reevaluate our own models to ensure we play a part in creating a more inclusive craft beer culture.

I knew if I could bring her insights to my company, we would grow. But, wouldn’t it be better if I could amplify that even further and to ensure that the brewing community could also hear her? So, I called Leah Rainis and Brandi Hillman at the Asheville Brewers Alliance, and Rich Greene at the North Carolina Brewers Guild. They were in.

Rich and I called Dr J. to ask if she would speak live at Highland. We noticed that her website states all speaking engagements were cancelled until further notice and we knew she had not spoken to a live audience since at least mid-March.

To our amazement, she said yes!

So, we are elated to open up this rare opportunity to our community to connect with Dr. J to discuss how our industry can diligently keep growing beyond just cultivating diverse teams to actually building inclusive cultures. We invite you to join us.

Event Details
Dr. J Jackson-Beckham

Dr. J Jackson-Beckham, Principal at Crafted For All and Brewers Association Diversity Ambassador

Join Leah Wong Ashburn and Highland Brewing Company for an evening in the Event Center on Monday, Nov. 2 as they dive into issues surrounding equity and inclusion in the world of craft beer.

Dr. J Jackson-Beckham, Principal at Crafted For All and Brewers Association Diversity Ambassador, will give a lecture on equity and inclusion in the craft beer community. This talk will be followed by a panel discussion featuring employees and fans of craft beer. In this interactive talk and discussion panel, Dr. J will open the door for an honest and judgement-free conversation about the realities of authentically reaching populations that are underrepresented throughout the craft beer community.

A limited quantity of tickets are available at $20 per participant to maintain safety for guests and staff. This is a 21+ event. A beer token will be included with ticket purchase. Tables seat a maximum of six (6) guests. Cocktail seating will be available for two (2) guests. A dinner-box option from our friends at Smash Catering will be available for an additional $13. Dinner orders must be received no later than October 28. Guests may choose from their Cuban Sandwich or Caprese Panini. There is a vegan option available by request.

4-5 pm:  Rooftop Welcome Reception

5-6 pm: Fans, Hands, and Brands: Moving Beyond an Introduction to Equity & Inclusion Talk led by Dr. J Jackson-Beckham

6-6:30 pm:  Intermission aka Beer & Dinner Time

6:30-7:30 pm: Brands, Hands, and Fans Panel Discussion

The “Fans, Hands, and Brands” session will be available via free livestream for all North Carolina CBC participants. However, the panel will not be streamed.