Over the past year or so, we’ve been seeing more urgency that was both much needed and long needed in the push to vastly improve diversity, equity, representation, and inclusion in craft beer. For a scene so anchored in community, outreach, and acts of good, beer had still been falling far behind where it needs to be, unable to break a cycle of not welcoming and/or speaking to people of color, and therefore not being an industry people of color enter for a career. More recently, though, change is in the air, in the form of Black-owned breweries opening, initiatives to offer education and experience in beer for people of color, and collaborations like Marcus Baskerville of Weathered Souls Brewing’s Black is Beautiful collaboration.
There is much work to be done, but one of the most important and valuable things we can be doing is supporting Black-owned businesses. We can spread the word and spend our money at these awesome breweries and bars and push forward to a beautifully diverse beer scene.
While we need to show this support 365 days a year--and truly, why wouldn’t you want to when these businesses are so unique, vital, creative, and awesome?--we’ve been rounding up some of our favorite Black-owned businesses in our newsletter for Black History Month and are gathering them here so you can take these tips and greatly improve your craft beer lifestyle all year round.
We are forever psyched to have Montclair Brewery’s incredible beers on TapRm. Back in October, Denise Ford Sawadogo gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how she and husband and fellow owner Leo Sawadogo established their brewery on their cultural heritages as well as their local community, and how they innovate their special, standout brews.
In addition to Leo’s background in food, his West African roots as well as Denise’s Jamaican roots are translated into game-changing flavors and aromas in Montclair Brewery’s beer--like this golden ale brewed with baobab, for example.
“That was huge for us,” Denise told us when we spoke. “When I was researching before we opened, I saw that was really lacking: many things in beer were all the same. I didn’t see anyone, or at least very few people, that looked like us in craft beer. We knew our cultures would be something that would really allow us to stand out. We said if we’re going to open a brewery, we’re not going to do the same thing as everyone else, that’s the whole point for us even opening a brewery. It’s very important for us to add our cultures to the beer, we’re very proud of that.”
Leo and Denise also brew a Black History Month series and look to Black history for inspiration when it comes to both their beers’ ingredients and their beers’ stories.
DaleView Biscuits & Beer
Christopher Gandsy opened DaleView Biscuits & Beer in Brooklyn in 2017. He brings Southern hospitality and lovingly made cuisine to the city with amazing biscuits that are miraculously gluten-free. The menu of biscuit sandwiches is already enough to make this spot a can’t-miss destination, but then there’s the beer.
Gandsy brings beloved, traditional beer styles to life with a modern attention to detail and quality ingredients. At any given time, you can find shining examples of porters, bitters, stouts, and pilsners on tap. They’re perfectly paired with those fluffy biscuits, and just as much of a treat on their own.
Last year, Gandsy announced he’d be partnering with friend and fellow New York City craft beer industry member Christopher Inniss, who has worked for Rockaway Brewing Company since 2013, to establish a “farm-brewery internship program that would allow paid brewery education and experience to people of color.” The internship is a four-week program geared toward giving participants a foundation in production, front-of-house work, sales and distribution, and marketing and administration. It’s a monumental step forward in opening beer up to everyone and diversifying the industry.
To find out how to visit and/or order biscuits and beer from DaleView, visit their website here.
BierWax is the coolest hang in Brooklyn, and beyond, frankly. Here, music and beer unite in, pardon the pun, perfect harmony. Chris Maestro opened the bar in January of 2018, inspired by Japanese jazz cafés where the music is as important as the drinks, as well as his own love of vinyl. The spot was instantly embraced by neighborhood locals, weekend warriors, music lovers, and of course, beer geeks.
The interior, in non-pandemic times, naturally, is cool and sleek yet warm and welcoming--it sort of buzzes with conversation and whatever rad tunes the bartender is spinning, culled from the enviable shelves and shelves of vinyl behind the bar. (No, you can’t make requests, but relax. It’s more fun to discover new favorites through the very clued-in staff.) There are also tables in front to watch the world go by on Prospect Avenue, and a quiet patio out back that’s like an instant escape.
Wherever you sit, you’ll be sipping some of the finest brews craft beer has to offer, in cans or on draft. BierWax always has just the right mix, a brilliantly curated selection of hyper-local brews, beers from a bit further away that are often ones you’ve been hearing excited hype about, and a couple of classics like a Rothaus Pils to round things out.
BierWax is taking requests for tables, currently at 25% indoor capacity along with the outdoor seating. Visit their website here for more info.
Crowns & Hops
Teo Hunter and Beny Ashburn knew they weren’t the only Black people drinking and loving craft beer, and yet, they consistently found themselves to be the only Black people in a brewery taproom. They decided to work together, joining their backgrounds and expertise in media and entertainment, to create channels of representation so that people of color could recognize themselves and feel welcome in the craft beer world. Their first venture was a website called BlackPeopleLoveBeer.com, which reached people through content and a t-shirt bearing the same slogan. That evolved into Dope & Dank in 2016, a beer-centric lifestyle brand that had merch, pop-up events, and brewery collaborations.
By early 2019, Hunter and Ashburn were ready to announce the next step: their own brewery. Crowns & Hops has hit the ground running, brewing beers that get people truly excited from their taste and quality to their sense of purpose. Just this past fall, Crowns & Hops released 8 Trill Pils to raise awareness around racial equity--the name refers to the a statistic from a W.K. Kellogg Foundation study revealing that the U.S. stands to realize an $8 trillion gain in GDP by closing the racial equity gap by 2050. In conjunction with the beer, Crowns & Hops launched the “8 Trill Pils Fund” to help more Black breweries get open and established, and the brew’s label art was created by different artists of color in each of the countries that it would be available.
We are inspired by Crowns & Hops and psyched about their beer, so we’re very excited that said brews will be available on TapRm by late March. Find out more about Crowns & Hops here.
Harlem Hops is Manhattan’s first 100% African American-owned craft beer bar. It opened in the summer of 2018 with Kevin Bradford, Stacey Lee, and Kim Harris at the helm. All three are graduates of HBCUs, or historically Black colleges and universities. Harris and Bradford have spoken about how their love of good beer often meant traveling all the way to Brooklyn, and they wanted to change that. With Lee, they envisioned a bar that would both be a community hub and a home for great beer in Harlem. Everything down to the decor details radiates Harlem’s vivacious, cultural appeal, and the three co-owners make sure to have Black-brewed beers on tap.
You can find brews of all styles at Harlem Hops, with an emphasis on all things local. That’s in addition to cocktails and spirits from local distilleries, classic bar bites, and spicy Guma pies. All in all, Harlem Hops is a perfect regular hang if you’re local, and a destination well worth the trip if you’re not.Learn more about Harlem Hops and how to visit here.