Raising a Toast to Black Craft Beer History

By: Aviva Futornick

In the U.S. craft brewing industry, only 1% of craft breweries are Black-owned, but that number is growing. Black brewers across the country are being recognized for their work in an industry that for many years excluded them. Alongside a recent rise in the number of Black-owned craft breweries is also an increase in initiatives addressing and challenging the racial disparities in the craft beer industry. Find out more in this Beer Sessions Radio playlist celebrating Black craft beer professionals.

Beer Sessions Radio host Jimmy Carbone speaks with Black brewers, historians, brewmasters, and chefs on the state and history of the craft beer industry. Listen in as they share stories, challenges, and triumphs. Travel from Black-owned craft breweries of Queens to East London and back to Brooklyn. Learn about the origins of Weathered Souls Brewing’s Black is Beautiful Stout collaboration, the centuries-old history of milling in New York State, and of course, a tip or two on brewing.

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 660: Beer is Black History: Meet Montclair Brewery: Celebrate Black History Month with Montclair Brewery! Meet Denise Ford Sawadogo, co-owner, general manager, MBA, and marketing extraordinaire, and Leo Sawadogo, head-brewer and master distiller, as Jimmy sits down with this power couple to discuss the state of craft beer in the Black community. Jimmy starts the episode by recounting how he was connected with Leo and Denise by Manny Calderon, who aimed to bring Black-owned beers into the New York City market and beyond. Leo spins the yarn of learning to brew from his mom, (women handle most of the beer-making in his home of West Africa), and Denise tracks her journey from corporate America to Montclair Brewery. Every year during Black History Month Montclair Brewery releases a special series of beers inspired by African Culture and Icons. This year they are offering the “Beer is Black History” Black Lager, inspired by the origins of the first known beer recipe dating back to 3900 B.C. Mesopotamia! Whether it's a recipe inspired by traditions, or Jimmy's favorite "National Emergency" hazy NE IPA, Montclair Brewery is a must-try.

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 643: NYC Beer Bar Buds Toast to a Diverse, Evolving Scene: Jimmy and friends take Roberta’s. Get cozy and crack a brew with Chris Maestro, co-founder and co-owner BierWax Queens and BierWax Brooklyn; Yahaira Gil-Maestro, co-owner BierWax and BierWax Queens; Kevin Bradford, co-owner of Harlem Hops; Kim Harris, co owners Harlem Hops; and Christa Sobier, owner of Beer Witch. After two years of folks drinking at home, Jimmy and this esteemed group of NYC proprietors discuss the value of a warm, accepting spot to drink and gather. Listen to reflections on other valuable tenets of BSR like partnership, growth, serendipity, community, education, representation, and of course, NYC CRAFT BEER! Grab some headphones and join the party!

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 642: Black Brew Culture: From Piano Keys to Blacktoberfest: Jimmy drives down South for an exclusive talk with the influencers of the Black craft beer movement — Ale Sharpton and Mike Potter. While Ale is a beer writer slash expert slash critic slash personality, Mike is also the founder of Black Brew Culture slash Fresh Fest slash Blacktoberfest. The gang will follow the rise of Black craft breweries as well as the details of Ale’s and Mike’s individual projects serving as steps on that ladder. The episode kicks off with a catch-up session with Ale and his journey in the Piano Keys World — his collaboration with New Belgium. He also gives us a peek into the growth of Atlanta’s beer scene through legislation and minority brewing movements. We then get to meet Mike and two outstanding brewers from Blacktoberfest — Dirtbag Ale’s Tito and Beale Street Brewing Company’s Kelvin — along with their paths on the craft beer way and what they are brewing for this upcoming Blacktober. Additionally, we’ll also dive into an analysis of the ups and downs of the Black beer scene in U.S.’s Southern cities, before coming back to Ale’s efforts to shine light on the small guys. After the break, we’ll come back with Kelvin's private session with his exclusive trivias and stories on Elvis. Jimmy attempts to make his endings consistent by going around the room asking people their favorite beers for the week, before Mike closes out with details about Blacktoberfest (October 1st in St. Louis, 15th in Atlanta, and 22nd in Durham). Hop in the car and tune into our show while driving to Blacktober, Jimmy’s waiting for you!

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 634: Wild Brews: The Craft of Home Brewing, From Sour and Fruit Beers to Farmhouse Ales With Jaega Wise and Jeff Lyons: Beer Sessions Radio welcomes two homeschooled brewers — Jeff Lyons from Endless Life Brewing in Brooklyn, and Jaega Wise from Wild Card Brewery in East London, who also happens to be the author of “Wild Brews.” The gang will bang out lessons on homebrewing and sour beers, before revealing the secrets to the water section of Jaega's latest book. The episode starts with Jaega’s and Jeff’s introduction to the homebrewing world as well as their backgrounds outside of the beer industry. While Jaega grew up in the Midland region in UK, noted for Burton-on-Trent, with a CAMRA beer festival as her first, Jeff hung out with the Beer Judge Certification Program gang in the back room of Jimmy’s No. 43. Jaega also shared her unexpectedly perfect journey to beerdom, studying chemical engineering and going to water school for her previous job in water treatment. She went on to explain the keys to controlling what she considers the most underappreciated ingredient in brewing — water. The gang then goes deeper into sour beer and the history of homebrewing, with Jimmy admitting to only being able to make “the no hygiene beer” inspired by the Victorian era’s Tudor. They also discuss the revival of cask beers along with the brewing scene in London, with a tiny surprise about water in Scotland and whisky distilling. Grab your headset and listen in on the secrets right now!

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 549: Biscuits and Beer in NYC: Jimmy talks 'Biscuits and Beer' with Christopher Gandsy of DaleView Biscuits and Beer and Chef Jesse Jones, author of Pow!: My Life in 40 Feasts. They both share family recipes for delicious Southern food and discuss how Black chefs and brewers can move forward in these industries. Plus, Christopher talks about expanding his biscuit production and Jesse shares some of his greatest hits from Jimmy's annual Pig Island NYC event.

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 544: Unearthing New York's Long History of Milling: Jimmy revisits the question of ‘what came first beer or bread?’ and dives deep into the history of milling. Joining him are guests, Lavada Nahon, a culinary historian and interpreter for African American history for NYS Department of Parks; Amy Halloran, flour ambassador and the author of The New Bread Basket; and Bryan Ford, of Artisan Bryan and the author of New World Sourdough. Starting with when settlers brought wheat, barley and rye from Europe and turned New York into a bread basket, Lavada helps paint a picture of early New Amsterdam and unearth a whitewashed history that has left out the critical role enslaved people played in the grain economy. Amy and Lavada talk about the types of bread recipes that were common at the time, while Bryan shares how he is learning to break the mold we have surrounding bread today, which still uses a European standard.

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 541: 950 Breweries and Counting: The Black is Beautiful Stout: Jimmy welcomes Marcus Baskerville the founder of Weathered Souls Brewing and the creator of the Black is Beautiful Stout, a collaboration centered on racial justice that has reached nearly 1,000 breweries worldwide. Marcus initially thought he would just make the stout at his own brewery but challenged himself to think bigger. He talks about the whirlwind he has experienced since launching the project on a large scale. Also joining the conversation to talk about their relationship to the collaboration are Jesse Ferguson of Interboro Spirits and Ales, Alisa Bowens-Mercado of Rhythm Brewing and Matt Tanaka of Stout Collective. Together they discuss the stout recipe itself, the value in raising money as well as awareness, and what the future holds for diversifying the beer industry. 

Beer Sessions Radio Episode 303: Garrett Oliver's Greatest Beer Hits: Take a tour through Garrett Oliver's greatest hits on a brand new episode of Beer Sessions Radio. Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver is widely known for his debonair personal style, his elegant lectures on the history of beer and the art of brewing, his extensive knowledge of movies and literature and his two hats. He is also the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer, author of The Brewmaster’s Table and winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Excellent Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional. Jimmy is also joined by Anne Becerra, Stephen Valand and Kyle Kensrue.

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