A Q&A with Ontario Beer Summit’s Ren Navarro


UPDATE: There’s saw news on the Ontario Beer Summit front. The organizers announced on Instagram that they’ve had to cancel the event. The full text of their statement is below.

“It is with great sadness that we are announcing that the Ontario Beer Summit is cancelled.

While the response to the Summit was overwhelmingly positive from the beer community, with just over two weeks to go registration was low and sales were slow.

We know that the speakers that were slotted to offer insight and expertise were world-class. We believe strongly that the conversations and discussions that this conference had intended to invite are very much needed. We are grateful to know that the presence and planning of this conference helped spark some of those conversations, and we also know that there is significantly more work to be done; this is just the beginning.

Organizing an event of this magnitude was a large undertaking and one that came with a strong learning curve; we hope to continue to be a part of the work that was started with this, and hope to be able to re-visit this conference at a future time with this experience and our learnings behind us. Both of us committed countless hours and personal funds to try to make this happen because we truly believe in this industry and its growth, and we will continue in our efforts. We cannot ever properly express our gratitude and appreciation to the speakers, sponsors, and volunteers who jumped at being part of this endeavour and offered so much encouragement, financial support, and generosity of their time and expertise.

Change takes time. Disrupting the model takes perseverance and fortitude. We know that so many of you believe in forward progress and alternate perspectives. If we continue to work together towards positive growth, chinks will begin to appear in the armour of the cultural norm, the crack will widen, and that light will shine brighter and brighter allowing others to see the other angles and possibilities.

We are heartbroken but we are hopeful. With deep respect and admiration for our peers;

Yours in beer, Jake + Ren”

To find out more about the upcoming Ontario Beer Summit, I caught up with one of my favourite people in Ontario craft beer, the one and only Ren Navarro.

As well as being one of the friendliest people I know, she’s also remarkably busy. On top of all her other efforts—mainly in support of more diversity to go with the great beer coming from Ontario breweries—she is helping put together this brand-new event in March. I’ll hand the mic over to Ren and let her tell you what it’s all about.

Renee Navarro, beer sales rep, consultant and diversity advocate.
Renee Navarro, beer sales rep, consultant and diversity advocate. Photo: Racheal McCaig.

Growler: What makes OBS different from other beer conferences?

Navarro: The OBS is about bringing in people who don’t normally speak at conferences. This is about highlighting those who have been in the industry for some time now but haven’t been given centre stage to share their expertise.

This conference is about learning about diversity, equality and inclusion from one another, wrapped into the streams of brewing, hospitality and marketing.

We’re lucky enough to have speakers who have pushed the envelope to help make change happen in their communities and in the beer world – Day Bracey, co-founder of Fresh Fest, a Pittsburgh-based beer festival highlighting African Americans in beer; Toni Byce, from Beer Kulture and New Belgium; Eric and Garrett Saulis, brewers at Dominion City Brewing Co., among others!

Growler: What should attendees expect?

Navarro: A safe and inclusive space to ask the questions they were always too afraid to ask. Our aim is to present a gathering focused on education and idea-sharing to improve brewery quality, performance, taproom culture and marketing. All while celebrating the strength that equality and diversity bring to craft beer and our communities.

Growler: Why now for the Ontario Beer Summit?

Navarro: Why not now? There’s always talk of engaging diverse groups of people in order for the beer community to grow and move forward. This is the perfect time to present the OBS.

Growler: Who is going to get the most out of the event? What’s your target market?

Navarro: The hope is that with the three streams (Brewing Science + Brewery Operations, Marketing + Sales, and Hospitality + Culture), we’ll be able to welcome not just brewers and brewery employees, but also restaurant/bar employees/owners, and people interested in the industry.

Growler: When do people need to register by and when are the big days?

Navarro: The OBS takes place over two days, Tuesday, March 10 and Wednesday March 11.  Registration is now open, running until the week before the Summit.

Growler: If someone absolutely can’t make it, what’s their next-best option?

Navarro: Look up the speakers and start following them on social media. These are people who have a lot to say!

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