This year’s festival will feature a row of Black-owned breweries.
DENVER — In an industry that supports 10,000 craft breweries across the country, less than 1% of them are Black-owned – a statistic that industry leaders are working to change.
This year’s Great American Beer Festival will feature a line of booths for Black-owned breweries, the first time the National Black Brewers Association has been featured at the festival.
“There’s a correction that needs to be made about how people talk about Black people in beer, as if it’s new,” said Teo Hunter, co-owner of Crown and Hops Brewing Co. and a board member of the association. “There have always been people of color. Black people in the beer industry in the actual craftsmanship of beer.
“What we haven’t been able to see in recent years, or in the past actually, is the Black community actually being involved in the business of beer, and I think that’s what we’re able to show at the Great American Beer Festival this year,” Hunter said.
The section, which features three beers from Hunter’s brewery, stands out in a sea of booths filled with white faces.
“When you’re in a space where there is very little representation of self, … it is always important to show up and be seen and be heard and create opportunities for people to know that they themselves can also be in an industry like craft beer,” said Beny Ashburn, CEO of Crown and Hops and Hunter’s business partner.
“Many of the Black brewers in this area have been in business for years and have never been to the Great American Beer Festival,” Ashburn said.
Ashburn said Hunter introduced her to the industry and she instantly fell in love with the culture – watching people gather with their phones down, immersed in community. But she noticed something missing.
“We saw there was a huge void of brown and Black people inside that community,” Ashburn said.
They founded their company to address that gap, brewing a beer they call BPLP Hazy IPA – which stands for Black People Love Beer, a movement they started seven years ago. Crowns and Hops is working on creating a brick-and-mortar tasting room for their beers.
“Everybody’s palate is different, so the idea is to get more palates to the party,” Hunter said. “To get more palates to judge to identify what they love, what they don’t like, so they can ultimately bring more products to this industry.”
Hunter’s association, which goes by NB2A, works to address gaps in finding capital for Black-owned breweries.
“We’re able to have these conversations collectively and ultimately pull information so that we can leverage solutions so that we can have a much faster rate of being able to accomplish the goal of more Black-owned breweries around the country,” he said.
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