The craft brewing business accounted for nearly $29 billion in beer sales last year, which is nearly one-quarter of the $120 billion beer industry revenue in the United States. But of the nearly 10,000 craft brewers in the country, only about 1% are Black individuals.
A group of like-minded Black entrepreneurs now are setting out ― determined to change this dynamic. At the Annual Craft Brewers Conference this weekend in Nashville, Tenn., they announced the establishment of the National Black Brewers Association. The first-of-its-kind nonprofit organization is committed to the following:
• Promoting the Black brewing community
• Increasing the number of African American individuals in the brewing industry at all levels of production, especially ownership and brew-masters
• Exercising influence by developing and advocating for effective policies
• Fostering historical context, and legacy surrounding African American influence on brewing in the United States.
“The launch of the National Black Brewers Association will create a more inclusive and vibrant beer industry by providing black brewers access to the resources, mentorships, and networks needed to thrive,” said Kevin Johnson, founder of NB2A, in a statement.
To help spearhead the organization, the NB2A has announced the appointment of Kevin Asato, a 30-year veteran of the beverage industry, as its first executive director. Asato brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the position, having previously held leadership roles at major beverage distributors across the country.
“I am honored to be selected as the first executive director and to build the foundation that will fuel the growth of Black owned breweries, membership into the organization and celebrate the history and accomplishments of the Black Brewers of America,” Asato states.
The association already has established a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of the most experienced and successful Black brewery owners and brew-masters around the country, featuring the following:
Marcus Baskerville, Weathered Souls Brewery, San Antonio, Texas; Celeste Beatty, Harlem Brewing Co., New York; Clarence Boston, Hippin' Hops Brewing, Atlanta; Alisa Bowens-Mercado, Rhythm Brewing Co., Portsmouth, N.H.; Denise Ford-Sawadogo, Montclair Brewery, Montclair, N.J.; Rodney Hines, Métier Brewing Co., Seattle; Chris Harris, Black Frog Brewery, Holland, Ohio; Aaron Hosé, director of the acclaimed documentary ‘One Pint at a Time,’ which illuminated the issues facing Black brewers and breweries; Teo Hunter, Crowns & Hops, Inglewood, Calif.; Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham, principal, Crafted For All, a professional organization that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the brewing industry; Khris Johnson, Green Bench Brewing Co., Tampa Bay, Fla.; Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Jon Renthrope, Cajun Fire Brewing Co., New Orleans; and Dennis Malcolm Byron (AKA Ale Sharpton), Piano Keys, Atlanta. Johnson, who owns Oak Park Brewery in Sacramento, also will serve as a Board member.
“The launch of the National Black Brewers Association marks an important milestone for the beer industry,” stated Beatty, who asserts as being the first black female brewer in the United States. “I am thrilled to see this organization come to life and am confident that it will serve as a valuable resource and support system for black brewers across the country.”
Renthrope added: “It’s an honor to serve as a board member for the National Black Brewers Association and to use the entrepreneurial spirit and the production of innovative craft beer as a vehicle of socioeconomic change. Together, we can promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the beer industry and beyond.”
In addition to the Craft Brewing Conference in Nashville, where the NB2A hosted a “Bottle Share” event, the organization will sponsor special programs at the Barrel & Flow event in Pittsburgh on August 12, and the Peoples Jubilee Beer Fest in Sacramento on Oct. 14.
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