The craft beer industry has a problem with a lack of diversity. In the Brewers Association’s 2019 survey, it found that 88 percent of brewery owners were white. From there, American Indian or Alaska Native owners were 4 percent, followed by Asian and Hispanic owners both at 2 percent, and Black brewery owners stood at just 1 percent. Hispanic employees make up about 7.5 percent of brewery service staff and Black employees sit at just over 4 percent of brewery service staff.
These numbers are not OK, and we start to change that by lifting up and supporting those who are forging paths for others to follow. In honor of Black History Month, we compiled a list of 15 breweries either owned by Black folk or led by a Black brewer. This is by no means a comprehensive list or a best of — the following is simply a collection of some notable Black-led breweries in the country that you should know and support.
Green Bench Brewing Company
From: St. Petersburg, FL
Green Bench is one of those rare, world-class breweries that’s able to brew any style of beer really, really well. That’s because of co-owner and head brewer Khris Johnson’s impeccable brewing prowess — he’s also a founding faculty member of USF St. Petersburg’s Brewing Arts Program. Khris’ vision and abilities have transpired to Green Bench being known for everything from IPAs to mixed-fermentation beers to lagers and everything in between.
Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
From: San Antonio, TX
In 2020 it was the Black Is Beautiful initiative from Weathered Souls that made one of the biggest impacts on the craft beer world. Conceived by co-founder and head brewer Markus Baskerville, the collab brought together nearly 1,200 breweries from around the world, designed to raise awareness about the inequalities and injustices Black people face every day. Baskerville and Weathered Souls are rising stars in craft beerdom with deep stouts and thirst-quenching IPAs.
Crowns & Hops
From: Inglewood, CA
Founded by Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter, Crowns & Hops has been focusing their work on closing the racial and gender gap in craft beer for years. Brewing beers that recognize historically Black colleges and universities or are done in conjunction with other Black-owned proprietors like Red Bay Coffee is at the center of what Crowns & Hops stands for. Their diverse portfolio of beers range from pilsners to West Coast IPAs and more. Crowns & Hops is currently building its first brewpub.
Four City Brewing Company
From: Orange, NJ
Founded out of Roger Apollon Jr.’s passion for home brewing, Four City Brewing Company aims to be a place where all can come to enjoy good beer. The microbrewery produces all kinds of delectable, citrus-forward IPAs and other styles that tie into the local Orange community — its flagship Citrus City is the epitome of this homage to home.
Harlem Brewing Company
From: Harlem, NY
Celeste Beatty has been a true pioneer in the brewing industry since the ‘90s. She officially founded Harlem Brewing Company in November 2000 and has since established her three flagship beers (Sugar Hill Golden Ale, Renaissance Wit and 125 IPA) as staples for any New York City drinker. Weaving together the heritage of Harlem, Beatty has also expanded to a sister brewpub in Rocky Mount, NC, dubbed Harlem Brew South. If you can find it, Renaissance Wit is one of the best American Witbiers out there.
Urban Roots Brewing
From: Sacramento, CA
Urban Roots Brewing has quickly asserted itself as a favorite among craft beer nerds and casual beer drinkers alike. That’s not just because they double as a Texas-style smokehouse, but it’s because of co-owner Rob Archie’s long-standing acumen in the craft beer. He’s also the owner of the Pangea Bier Cafe which helped establish Sacramento’s blossoming craft beer scene. Urban Roots excels at IPAs, pilsners and porters.
Rhythm Brewing Co.
From: New Haven, CT
Rhythm Brewing Co.’s owner and founder Alisa Bowens-Mercado is a one-woman workhorse. She started Rhythm Brewing Co. in 2018 to focus on unfiltered craft lagers since lagers were the drink of choice of both her grandmothers. The flagship Rhythm Unfiltered Lager uses South African hops and is just what you’re looking for in a crisp, easy-drinking beer.
Union Craft Brewing
From: Baltimore, MD
As Union Craft Brewing says on its website, “Beer is the union of water, barley, hops and yeast. A brewery is the union of beer, its brewers and the community it serves.” This is the driving philosophy behind what director of brewing operations and co-owner Kevin Blodger has established (he’s also the chair of the diversity committee for the Brewers Association). Duckpin Pale Ale was the brewery’s first beer and continues to be the backbone of its offerings to the blossoming craft community in Baltimore.
From: Brooklyn, NY
While Brooklyn Brewery is not Black-owned, it has been Black-led from its very inception. That leader is brewmaster, James Beard Award-winning brewer and author of The Oxford Companion to Beer, Garrett Oliver. He has been a stalwart in the craft beer world for nearly five decades now and arguably is one of the best brewers in the world. His nuanced approach to brewing has not only established Brooklyn Brewery as an international icon, but he has also provided a path for others to follow. Oliver furthered this recently by launching The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling that aims to diversify beer and spirits.
Chula Vista Brewery
From: Chula Vista, CA
Founded by Navy veteran Timothy Parker and his wife Dali, Chula Vista Brewery focuses on creating quality craft beer for its neighbors in Chula Vista and the surrounding San Diego County areas. Being a pillar in the community is key to what the brewery does, and that includes offering an inviting taproom where all are welcome to enjoy key American styles like IPAs and pale ales while building a stronger community together.
Down Home Brewing Co.
From: Atlanta, GA
Down Home Brewing Co. is an Atlanta-based blossoming brewery that is Georgia’s first Black-owned brewery. Founders Chris Reeves and William Allen Moore started production in 2017 and have aimed for diversity and innovation in craft beer. Currently, the brewery has three beers out in the Atlanta market (Georgia Hooch IPA is a go-to, and the T-Pom Pomegranate Wheat Ale sounds like a unique twist on a wheat ale) with plans on finding a pub location soon.
From: Montclair, NJ
Montclair Brewery, like most breweries really, was established out of a passion for home brewing. Leo Sawadogo and Denise Ford-Sawadogo founded the brewery in 2014 and officially opened the doors of its current location in 2018. Inspired by their diverse upbringings (Leo in West Africa and Denise on Long Island, as the first in her family to have been born outside Jamaica), the brewery offers eclectic brews like Hibiscus Dream (a pale ale brewed with hibiscus flowers). Since 2019, the brewery puts out a special Black History Month Beer Series inspired by African culture and prominent Black figures.
Métier Brewing Company
From: Woodinville, WA
It was a passion for beer and bicycling that led owner Rodney Hines to open Métier Brewing in 2018, thus becoming Washington’s first and only Black-owned brewery. The mission statement “to brew damn good beer and build stronger community to inspire bigger dreams for all” sits at the heart of everything Métier does — that includes sourcing materials and ingredients from minority- and women-owned businesses whenever possible. Some standouts from Métier include a Kölsch, a Coconut Porter and the Trail Blazer Pale Ale.
From: Oakland, CA
Hella Coastal aims to “build equity and ownership in the craft beer industry as producers and not just consumers.” Founders Mario Benjamin and Chaz Hubbard started Hella Coastal to also raise, address and educate the public on the historical, economic, social and health issues facing communities of color. They’ve not only done this through their own stable of beers, but also through collabs with other Black-owned breweries. Most recently, Hella Coastal released a Black History Month IPA four-pack with Full Circle Brewing, Oak Park Brewing and Hunters Point Brewing featuring civil rights activists on each of the cans.
18th Street Brewery
From: Hammond, IN
Founder and president Drew Fox has grown 18th Street Brewery into the second largest brewery in northwest Indiana since opening in 2013 — he had started the label as a home brewer in 2010. Brewing everything from Saisons to double IPAs and everything in between at multiple locations, Fox is meticulous about recipe evolution and creation. Whether it’s a flagship beer like Devil’s Cup or a barrel-aged one like Silver Spoon, Fox and crew are a must-try from Indiana.