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Bringing Culture to the Cup: NB2A Revolutionizes Craft Beer

Bringing Culture to the Cup: NB2A Revolutionizes Craft Beer

Craft beer has always been a staple of local communities, serving as a gathering point for people to share stories over a pint. The sense of belonging and support from local patrons fueled the growth of craft beer during its peak years. However, there’s a significant opportunity yet to be fully realized—the untapped potential of Black consumers and brewers in the craft beer industry.

According to the National Black Brewers Association website:

Brewing in the U.S. is an industry that requires considerable access to capital whereas African Americans as a whole have limited financial means given challenges arising out of historical and institutional racism, much of which is perpetuated today.”

Current data reveals that while 88% of Black individuals who drink alcohol choose spirits, only 46% opt for beer. According to the most recent demographic study of craft brewery business structures, only 1% of breweries are Black-owned, equating to about 120 breweries, many of which don’t have brick-and-mortar locations.

Such a significant gap represents a massive opportunity for the craft beer industry to connect authentically with the Black community. One year ago, industry culture makers and community allies established the National Black Brewers Association to advocate and uplift Black-owned breweries. Within that short time, they have drastically impacted the industry landscape.

Mission of the NB2A

The NB2A is a registered 501(c)(6) non-profit organization dedicated to creating a more inclusive and vibrant beer industry by providing Black brewers with the resources, mentorships and networks needed to thrive. The National Black Brewers Association, under the leadership of Kevin Johnson, former NBA star, former mayor of Sacramento, California, and owner of Oak Park Brewery, has been pivotal in supporting Black brewers and promoting diversity within the industry.

Johnson’s successors are keeping the momentum flowing. The board of directors is a spectrum of powerhouse names in the brewing space, including Celeste Beatty, Garrett Oliver, Marcus Baskerville, Dr. J Jackson-Beckham, Rodney Hines, Teo Hunter and Alisa Bowens-Mercado, to name a few. All are cheerleaded by executive director Kevin Asato, a 30-year beverage industry veteran.

The NB2A advocates authenticity and cultural representation as critical ingredients for success in the craft beer industry. By supporting Black brewery owners to stay true to their roots and cultural narratives, the NB2A helps foster a unique brewing environment that stands out in an otherwise saturated market.

Breaking Barriers & Building Bridges

The beer industry has often been criticized for being predominantly white and male, leaving gaping holes in its demographic reach. During the NB2A’s official press conference at this year’s Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference, Garrett Oliver and Marcus Baskerville discussed how a lack of role models and representation propelled their journeys into brewing.

Baskerville recounts how he and his brother, early entrants into the industry, regularly found themselves as the only Black individuals in the room. Today, their experiences and leadership inspire a new generation of Black brewers. By providing technical education and scholarships through initiatives like the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling, the NB2A is actively breaking down financial and educational barriers that historically sidelined Black brewers.

One of the organization’s notable successes during its first year was securing much-needed brewing equipment for Celeste Beatty, a pioneer and the first Black woman craft brewery owner who lacked a brick-and-mortar location for operations. With community support, the NB2A facilitated decommissioning, reinstalling and delivering the equipment to her brewery, Harlem Brew South, in North Carolina. The act is a testament to NB2A’s mission—creating a space for Black brewers to thrive and celebrate their culture while supporting the broader craft beer community.

Currently, the NB2A is taking applications from member breweries for equipment donations from Russian River Brewing and Optimism Brewing to provide a brewhouse setup and canning line.

Full Circle Brewing event
NB2A members at Full Circle Brewing Company. Photo provided by NB2A.

Moving Forward with Unity

As evidenced by its members’ heartfelt speeches and emotional reflections during the press conference, the NB2A isn’t just an organization, it’s a movement. The passion at events like the NB2A’s tap takeover at Beer Zombies during the Craft Brewers Conference and the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling’s big check ceremony underscores the importance of community and collaboration in brewing success.

Asato points out that while the national growth trend for craft beer is down 3%, the growth trend for Black-owned beer brands is up 1%. That uptick, he said, can be attributed to “their authentic self. It’s the culture. It is very simple in the beer industry: What these individuals are doing and the association we’re trying to bring together bring culture to the cup. And it’s exactly the same recipe that actually had craft beer grow before it was authentic to the community. The community could feel a part of that organization.”

Marcus Baskerville reiterated the sentiment: “There are completely different demographics that we have not even been able to hit yet. And this organization is going to bring an entire demographic to the market if it is supported correctly. That’s helping grow the industry that we say is dwindling at this point. And so that’s why this particular group is very much important in the sense of what we’re trying to develop going forward.”

Tap Takeover at Beer Zombies
Teo Hunter of Crowns and Hops hosts the NB2A tap takeover event at Beer Zombies during Craft Brewers Conference 2024 in Las Vegas.

Get Involved

The rise of Black craft beer, fueled by the efforts of the NB2A, marks a significant and inspiring chapter in the craft brewing world. By embracing authenticity and fostering an inclusive community, Black brewers are revitalizing the industry and creating a path for future generations.

As the organization’s leadership and members look to its second year and beyond, the impact of their work will undoubtedly continue to grow, bringing new flavors, faces and stories to the rich tapestry of craft beer. The NB2A aims to have 100% of Black brewers join the organization, along with hundreds of other individuals and companies who play a role in the craft brewing space.

By supporting the endeavors of the NB2A and its brewers, we contribute to a more diverse, vibrant and united beer culture that benefits everyone. Your support is crucial whether you’re an industry member, consumer or fan.

Baskerville says the best way to support the NB2A is to “support the brands associated with the organization. So supporting Black brands, going to retail, buying beers, visiting their breweries. If you can’t support us by joining the membership, the next best thing is obviously supporting our members.”

Breweries can also support the NB2A by brewing Black is Beautiful Vol. 2 and committing to donating $1 per beer sold to the NB2A. For more information, visit the National Black Brewers Association website or contact executive director Kevin Asato.

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