In December, Pittsburgh beer organization Black Brew Culture was awarded a $130,350 grant to fund its project, Increasing the Participation of the Black Community in PA Craft Beer.
Black Brew Culture, a partnership between founder Mike Potter and consultant Dr. Amber M. Epps, is one of 18 organizations and projects that received funds from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to enhance the state’s beer industry. Over the course of 2020, Epps and Potter will use this grant to “increase the awareness, knowledge, and experience of Black people in craft beer.”
This project was born out of necessity. After working with Black Brew Culture (a online magazine founded by Potter) and Fresh Fest Beer Fest (the first Black brew festival in Pittsburgh and the country), Epps saw the need for consistent programming dedicated to familiarizing Black people in Pittsburgh with craft beer. The duo saw an opportunity with the grant to “promote the fact that there [were] more ways than one for Black people to be part of the craft beer industry.”
“We wanted to use this opportunity to get away from the discussion of diversity and inclusion and begin to focus on engagement, education, and entrepreneurship,” said Epps. “I mean, does diversity even matter if there is no real equity, leverage, or ownership in the playing field?”
The project, already active, will be broken down into parts that provide education and support for “drinkers, hop growers, and potential brewers in the Black communities.”
Epps and Potter plan to hold food and beer pairings with Black-owned restaurants, organize tours and tastings with breweries, and facilitate partnerships between Hops On Lots — a project connecting communities and breweries through urban farming — and Black farmers and gardeners. The partners are working with Cicerone Certification Program to offer beer server training (similar to a sommelier for wine) to interested Black people. Other events will include education on home brewing, beer styles, trends, and craft beer careers.
In addition to their first hop meeting, Epps and Potter have already hosted — and sold out — their first beer and food pairing at Casa Brasil in Highland Park. The duo has partnerships locked in for the future with Love Rocks Café, Roux Orleans, East End Brewing Company, and Butler Brew Works, among others.
For Epps, the end goal of this project is simple.
“When we walk into breweries or go to conferences and symposiums related to craft beer, we want to see more Black faces,” she says. “We hope that these experiences and opportunities equip people with some additional knowledge and skills to approach beer drinking differently than they may have in the past.”