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GREENWOOD Dist.–Black people drink beer, too. However, the number of Black-owned breweries in the United States are limited when comparing the existing number of breweries in the country. Kevin Johnson, former NBA star and owner of Fixins Soul Kitchen, has started an organization for Black brewers in the United States.
The National Association of Black Brewers (NABB) launched in May. Astonishingly, less than 1% of all breweries in America are Black owned. Marcus Baskerville, Co-Founder and director of brewing for Weathered Souls Brewing Company, mentioned that there’s about 70 Black-owned breweries out of nearly 10,000 breweries in the United States
“One of the things dealing with Black crafting is, we’ve always said that we don’t have that seat at the table, especially with less than 1% of Black ownership within beer.” Baskerville told The Black Wall Street Times.
Baskerville, who also sits on the board for NABB, expressed that the lack of representation, support and feeling of community for Black-owned brewers was a factor in creating the organization.
“So, the National Black Brewers Association formed to promote education, resources, and the political means and things for that, and individuals that look like us within the beer community.”
The Little-Known History of Black Brewers
Black brewers make up a minute portion of brewers in the United States, but Black brewers have a storied history in brewing, dating back to ancient Egypt. Studies have shown that archeologists from Egypt and the United States have located a 5000-year-old large-scale-brewery at a funerary site in North Abydos. The brewery is said to exist around 3150 B.C., during the reign of King Narmer.
Kevin Asato, Executive Director for National Black Brewers Association, mentioned that one of the aims of NBBA is to celebrate the history of Black brewing.
“We want to celebrate the history of Black people in brewing. There’s an unfortunate belief that we’re new to the game. We’re not,” he told The Black Wall Street Times. “From the earliest civilizations, the African civilizations have been a part of literally some of the first dialogues of brewing.”
He continued, noting that several partners show data points that Africans are amongst the earliest cultures who produced beer. Now, NBBA is working diligently to provide awareness about Black-owned breweries and knowledge of the path to ownership.
A Seat at The Table
There have been previous efforts to unify Black brewers in the United States, but to no avail. Asato mentioned that one of the biggest challenges in the past has been getting on one accord effectively and meaningfully.
“There were a lot of people that had the effort or desire, but they just couldn’t get the entire country or the total universe of Black brewers together,” he told The Black Wall Street Times.
Currently, there are 15 board members who sit on the NBBA, with members who have more than a decade of experience in the beer industry. Asato acknowledged the selected board members were some of the most reputable, knowledgeable, and visible people in the Black beer community. Moreover, it took more than their expertise to expand the brand.
“It took more than just the 15 board members to say, ‘hey, come join us, come join us,’ and it took more than just Kevin Johnson’s relationships and network to say, ‘hey, we are doing a good thing over here’,” he said.
He mentioned that DKC media – who works Pro Bono- played a pivotal role in expanding their reach. “You need a PR company to really tap into partners like yourself, any publications that have a voice and an audience far greater than what we can reach,” he added.
Asato believes the organization’s clear and effective messaging provided them success in the infancy of their business. The NBBA has existed for one summer but is receiving recognition from nationally known brewing companies (Boston Beer and Molson Coors) and state congressional members.
Through their efforts, they are seeking to make Oct 10. National Black Brewers Day. Asato also noted that the NBBA aims to educate its state legislature on job creation and the economic impact that Black-owned breweries bring to their respective communities.