Humanity has more means for communication than ever before, but a single, contrasting view can turn a promising conversation into stunned silence—or worse, a shouting match. However, one group wants to give people a place to converse about difficult topics in a civilized fashion.
Craft Beer & Conversation is an outlet for Clevelanders who crave cordial conversations about important topics, even if everyone’s viewpoints don’t align. The series began in January of 2017 after Founder Megan Anderson noticed a frustrating trend following the 2016 presidential election.
“I saw on social media that a lot of people didn’t want to have conversations with anyone who may have voted a certain way in that election or had a contrasting view,” Anderson says. “That made me sad because even though the conversation is challenging, people of opposing views need to sit down now more than ever and have those tough conversations in order to find common ground or just understand why that opposing point of view exists.”
Given the inspiration, the events tend to lean toward heavier topics. Anderson decided that adding the craft beer element created a lighter atmosphere where guests could talk in a relaxed environment, such as Noble Beast Brewing Co., Market Garden Brewery, and Goldhorn Brewery. According to Anderson, these environments, along with an expectation that controversial opinions may pop up in conversation, allow guests to stick to civil discourse instead of blocking off communication.
“Human nature is to go into defense mode when something comes up that surprises you,” Anderson explains. “A lot of people don’t need to do that [at Craft Beer & Conversation] because they know it might be coming.”
With topics such as immigration, gun control, and the government shutdown, contrasting opinions are certainly on display. Guests are split into groups and given a set of suggested questions and a little more than an hour to discuss topics while moderators walk around to help when needed.
As the months pass by, Craft Beer & Conversation will tackle new, timely topics, including an upcoming discussion on the #MeToo movement at Noble Beast Sunday, Feb. 17. Technology may give people new ways to tune each other out, but Anderson and company are ready to give Clevelanders an outlet to communicate about vital topics in a time when civility is an increasingly important attribute.