Meet the first black woman to own a brewery in the US


We interviewed Celeste Beatty, the owner and head brewer of Harlem Brewing Company.

Celeste is the first African American woman in the US to own her own brewery.

We spoke to her about the future of her company and diversity in the craft-beer industry.



Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: This may seem like your regular glass of cold beer, but it was brewed by this woman: Celeste Beatty, the first African American woman to own a brewery in the United States. Her brand is called Harlem Brewing Company, and with it, she attempts to capture the legacy of Harlem and flavors of Africa. Take the 125 IPA, named after Harlem's famous 125th street.

Celeste Beatty: It's just a very vibrant corridor, from east to west of retail, of culture, of organizations like the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Theresa Hotel, the state office building. That entire street is just full of stories of marches. It's really celebrating and not forgetting what 125th Street has been.

Narrator: But she's doing more than just celebrating Harlem. She represents a revolution in the craft-brewing industry just by being in it. Picture a typical beer commercial. Yes, there's that nice, chilled beer, but let's get past that. Picture who's drinking the beer. Most likely a pretty homogeneous group. There may be that occasional black beer drinker, but the representation we see in beer commercials accurately represents what the craft-beer industry is really like.


In its four-decade history, the craft-beer industry has remained a predominantly affluent-white-male industry.

Celeste estimates that African Americans own less than 1% of all US craft breweries, and surveys suggest African Americans made up only 10% of weekly craft-beer drinkers in 2016. These low numbers are a result of the long history of discrimination in the alcohol industry in the US. From the late 1700s to the late 1800s, laws were passed across several Southern states that forbade retailers to give, sell, or deliver alcohol to any enslaved or free African Americans. In the 1920s and '30s, white Southern prohibitionists claimed that, quote: "liquor gave Negroes the strength to repudiate their inferior status and that it also encouraged them to attack white women. Therefore, it was imperative that it should be denied them." But black Americans have a long history of brewing beer, spanning back to Peter Hemings, who took over malting and brewing at Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello.

Celeste: Even though we brought our traditions from Africa, and we brewed beer for Thomas Jefferson and various people that enslaved us, we were never able to actually open the brewery, we were never able to actually be the entrepreneurs early on. So, there is no tradition of owning breweries, of owning bars, because of that discrimination. And I don't know if I would say the discrimination continues that blatantly today, but I think the biggest barriers is the lack of capital. We just don't have it.

Narrator: Celeste represents a shift in the industry, not only as a black brewer, but also one who's unapologetically black, representing her heritage with every beer flavor profile. Like her Renaissance Wit, which won the Best Brew of New York City in 2018.

Celeste: I grew up in the South. Since many of us migrated from the South to Harlem, it was all about flavor, you know, we were always competing, who had the best banana pudding, who had the best, you know, chicken, beef, you know. So, the Belgian style, Harlem style, is really about adding more layers of flavor.

Narrator: To add those layers, she uses a surprising mix of ingredients, including coriander; cumin; grains of paradise, which adds a peppery taste; and orange peel.

Celeste: So, it's high citrus, low hops, a lot of spiciness, and it's been received very well. The next steps for us is to get the brewpub open here in Harlem, with plans to do a few other locations, and my interest in that is to make sure that some part of the company is owned by the community. But I really think in this world that we live in, we've got to find a way to get people in the community not just working there, but they've got to have some equity in it.


Source: Insider.com