Before debuting the Black-owned 23rd Ave Brewery in the Central District during the Juneteenth holiday weekend, brewer Mario Savage wanted to let IPA hop-loving Seattle in on a little secret.
“There is a stereotype that Black people don’t drink beer,” said the self-taught African American brewer who sold out all of his beers during his grand opening. “We are living proof. All the people who follow us drink craft beer. Not Heineken or Budweiser, but Holy Mountain and Great Notion. They’re going to Bad Jimmy’s [Brewing Co. in Ballard]. It’s important for Black people to stick their chest out. We are here. We exist. We like good beer.”
In the past three weeks, two Black-owned breweries have debuted in the Central District to large African American turnout, many hoisting hazy IPAs and stouts, and breaking boundaries in an industry with few Black owners.
Three childhood friends, Savage and brothers James and David Dixon launched their 23rd Ave Brewery, with a large African-American crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk during launch. They sold out in under an hour.
One of the first arrivals, Akida Dancer thought a Black-owned brewery was so momentous that he drove from Tacoma to support the three business owners. Also waiting in line was First Hill resident Jeremy Cobbs-Hart, who counts himself as part of that Black community “who loves craft beer” and is appreciative that there are now two breweries “with customers who look like me.”
In early June, Métier Brewing Co. opened near Fat’s Chicken and Waffles near the main drag of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. Even on weekdays, beer fans wait for doors to open at 3 p.m.
“The perception that Black people and people of color don’t like craft beer is b.s.,” Métier co-founder Rodney Hines said. “It’s just they do not feel seen or welcome. Maybe it’s the music or décor … . We don’t make ourselves appealing to diverse communities.”
Hines, a former Starbucks executive, launched Métier in Woodinville in 2018 with Todd Herriott, and this year fulfilled his goal of expanding in the historic Black Central District, where he resides. In the fall, Métier also will brew ales at the old Pyramid Brewing facility across from T-Mobile Park in a project called Steelheads Alley, named for the Negro League baseball team, the Seattle Steelheads.
In a demographic study, The Brewers Association, which tracks trends in the beer industry, found that African Americans make up less than 1% of the brewery owners in the United States.
Until the arrival of Métier and 23rd Ave Brewing, none of the 71 breweries and taprooms in Seattle had been owned by an African American, according to the Washington Beer Commission.
Alarmed by the lack of diversity in their industry, Métier Brewing has partnered with Reuben’s Brews in Ballard to start The Mosaic State Brewers Collective, a mentoring program for women and people of color to work with experienced brewers to develop recipes and get career and budgeting advice from the Consulting and Business Development Center at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.
That support wasn’t around five years ago when Savage and the Dixon brothers were trying to get into brewing. The trio brewed their first batch in a basement after Savage bought a $30 home brew kit from Grocery Outlet. They’ve been hooked ever since, though they never imagined they would one day open a brewery near the same street where they all grew up.
“Being here is huge,” David Dixon said. “It’s important for people like me to come back to our community. If we don’t see representation of people who look like us, then people of color will be less inclined to frequent the business.”
They count Métier co-owner Hines as one of the inspirational brewers for people underrepresented in the industry.
“There’s a desire to bring back Black business here. And I’m honored and excited to be part of this reclamation of Black business in the Central District,” said Hines, who hires women and people of color to work in his brewery and to design his can labels. “The Central District is reclaiming itself and its history.”
Métier Brewing Co. Taproom
2616 E. Cherry St., Seattle; opens Tuesdays-Wednesdays 3-8 p.m., Thursdays 3-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1-9 p.m. and Sunday 1-7 p.m. Closed on Mondays; metierbrewing.com
Métier boasts 16 beers on tap, from a coconut porter to experimental batches such as a Laphroaig barrel-aged Scotch ale. For food, Umami Kushi runs a counter space inside the taproom selling Japanese okazu pans or deep-fried buns stuffed with various fillings from chicken mole to beef curry along with pretzels and potato chips that are made in-house. Customers under 21 and dogs are allowed in the taproom. Two giant screens will be set up in the 2,000-square-foot taproom for fans to catch the Mariners and Seahawks games.
23 Ave Brewery
2313 S. Jackson St., Seattle; opens Wednesdays 4-9 p.m., Saturdays 1-9 p.m. and Sundays 1-7 p.m. Note hours may vary each week, check 23avebrewery.com
The nano brewery is a production facility, so customers can’t drink on premise. But you can buy beers in cans or get your growlers filled. Three beers (two stouts and a Belgian blonde ale) are available with a fourth ale on tap soon.