Last September, I was sitting at a bar in LAX airport drinking an IPA. While waiting for my flight to board, I searched “Black people craft beer” and waited for Google to do its job. Headlines such as “There Are Almost No Black People Brewing Craft Beer” and “Maybe Black People Just Don’t Like Craft Beer” dominated the top results, their articles including statistics that reflect racist and inequitable practices that undermine the craft beer industry.
As I was walking to my gate, I clicked the next article entitled “African-American Craft Breweries Unite to Host a Festival of Their Own” and read about the inaugural Fresh Fest Black Beer Festival. My mind was blown (still blown to be honest), but I immediately made it a priority to attend the Festival in 2019.
Last weekend, I did just that.
On Friday, I drove 4.5 hours through the confederate back roads of Pennsylvania to attend the 2nd annual Fresh Fest Black Beer Festival in Pittsburgh, PA. Fresh Fest is the nation’s first and only Black brew festival. Translation: ALL of the beers poured at the event were made by Black-owned breweries and breweries collaborating with Black artists and entrepreneurs.
I drove to the Pittsburgh alone eager to meet many of the Instagram profiles I have connected with since starting @TheIPAWay. From the impromptu bottle share on Friday night to the Festival on Saturday I met many of them, including but not limited to:
Follow them on Instagram!
@BlackBeerTravelers | @BlackBeerChick | @CrownsAndHops | @PassTheHops | @AfroBeerChick | @HoppyBlackLady | @Teo_Hunter | @uncapeverything | @BlackBrewMovement |If I forgot anybody, charge my mind and not my heart. 🙂
From stouts to hazy IPAs to lagers, beer samples from all over the country were poured in-between the laughter and smiles we all shared during the Jacksonia function. On Saturday, 3,000 attendees made their way to Nova Place and drank beer from 23 Black-owned breweries another 45 collaborations between local breweries and Black artists. And after all the kegs had been kicked and the festival came to a close, a relational revival occurred. We were no longer Instagram friends or newly met strangers.
No, really. It was a family reunion.
Contrary to Google, Black people DO drink beer. A lot of it actually. But more importantly, craft beer has bonded us in a special (almost unexplainable) manner that reinforces the importance of community and belonging. Despite our life stories, we are all cut from the same resilient thread to diversify the craft beer industry. Our unique gifts in marketing, branding, and communication create energy that is palpable and synergy that WILL increase the number of Black-owned breweries in this country.
Admittedly, I am still speechless but using the hangover of excitement, inspiration, and hops (there are definitely still some in my system) to write this blog and articulate the magnitude of what just happened last weekend. Earlier this year, I shared my purpose in creating @TheIPAWay, emphasizing my desire to connect with other Black people passionate about craft beer. Fresh Fest 2019 filled this void and then some. For me, being Black in craft sparked cognitive dissonance and I started to feel like I was isolating myself from others.
Our family reunion confirmed that this isolation brought me closer to my authentic self because I was overwhelmed with joy and did not want to leave after the festival had ended.
Thank you, Fresh Fest for creating an environment that prioritizes and demands equity and inclusion in the craft beer industry.
I will be back with more family members next year!
Encourage somebody to be great today!