BrewDog Is Teaming Up with a Black-Owned Lifestyle Brand for a Bold New Project

February 25, 2019

By Diana Hubbell, February 25, 2019

When Teo Hunter was working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, he knew next to nothing about craft beer. It was a topic that his clients often brought up, so he started exploring. By the time he met Beny Ashburn, who had been working as a brand creative producer at Beats by Dr. Dre, his casual interest had morphed into a full-blown obsession. As their mutual interest grew, they noticed something troubling about the craft beer scene.

“We saw a huge lack of people of color in the craft beer space,” Hunter said. “I had been a huge fan of the energy surrounding craft beer and the festivals, but what I couldn’t get over was that there wasn’t anyone who looked like us. It was just so stark, visually and culturally speaking.”

To this day, only an estimated 50 of the nearly 7,000 breweries in the United States are black-owned and much of the branding surrounding beer is decidedly monochromatic. In an effort to bring more inclusivity to the brewing world, the duo launched Dope & Dank, along with the handle #BlackPeopleLoveBeer.

“Essentially, we started the handle as a beacon, or a megaphone, for our community to find one another,” Hunter says. “One of the things that we’ve really come to realize through the Dope & Dank journey is that people reflect who they are and the values they believe in. It’s not that we’re blaming the craft beer business for the lack of people in color, but what we are trying to do is to build what’s missing and what reflects who we are.”

Essentially, we started the handle as a beacon, or a megaphone, for our community to find one another.”

Since then, the community has grown and Dope & Dank has gone on to host panels and events all around the country, in addition to collaborating with breweries including El Segundo Brewing Company, J Wakefield Brewing, and State Brewing Company. Last year, Imbibe Magazine named them “Beer People of the Year.”

Now, Hunter and Ashburn are gearing up to launch Crown & Hops, their own beer brand based out of Inglewood, California, with a little help from the Development Fund at BrewDog. The Scottish brewery will produce Crown & Hops’ first three flagship beers—a pilsner, stout and IPA—in both its brewing facilities in Ellon, Scotland and Columbus, Ohio. Although the team at BrewDog has invested in the fledgling venture, they have left creative control squarely in Hunter and Ashburn’s hands.

“We didn’t have to explain our values and our principles to BrewDog and they don’t want to own us. They want this to be ours,” Hunter says. “It’s a new model. Most people are familiar with the model of the homebrewer starting out of their garage. This is the new now.”

BrewDog’s hands-off approach may be for the best, especially since the Scottish brewery has a history of publicity stunts that some have found tone deaf. Last year, the brewery slapped a Barbie’s Dreamhouse-colored label on the brewery’s signature Punk IPA and dubbed it a “Pink IPA.” While the move was ostensibly about calling attention to the gender wage gap in the U.K. and sexist beer marketing tropes, the gimmick backfired and was derided as a patronizing attempt at peddling a pink “beer for girls.”

In August, the company promoted its launch of The BrewDog Network, a streaming service broadcasting all sorts of beer content, with an innuendo-loaded site called Beerporn. Though the raunchy webpage was clearly created with tongue firmly in cheek, not a lot of people were laughing. Twitter users responded with gifs of a literal dumpster fire and comments slamming the use of gay and trans individuals as “punchlines.”

The company’s most recent stunt is less offensive, albeit still pretty silly. Yesterday, “BrewDog Airlines,” a chartered, branded Boeing 767 took off from London for their brewery in Columbus, Ohio laden with plenty of booze and passengers coughing up £1,250 a head for the experience.

Despite a few misfires, this latest partnership feels like the real deal, in part due to BrewDog’s willingness to let Dope & Dank continue to do what they do so well. Although Hunter and Ashburn are happy to take advice from experienced brewers when it comes to making beer, they have a clear mission and message of their own.

There’s a lot of work to be done before the dream of opening a flagship Crown & Hops brewery and restaurant in Inglewood becomes a reality. On top of the preparations underway with BrewDog, Hunter and Ashburn are launching an ambitious crowdfunding campaign to raise $75,000 starting on March 6. When completed, they hope the space will encourage other people of color to enter into the craft brewing sphere.

“We want to showcase a model that is not traditional,” Hunter says. “Our taproom is meant to be a hub for people to connect, to give black men and women and other people of color the opportunity to learn, experiment and potentially start their own businesses.”

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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