On Sunday, the mood at BierWax, a Brooklyn craft beer bar that spins hip-hop from a collection of 5,000-plus records, was exuberant. The crowd consisted of loyal regulars as well a number of influencers who promote diversity within the beer community. All of them were here for one reason: Teo Hunter and Beny Ashburn, co-founders of the LA-based lifestyle brand Dope & Dank, were in town. Under the new name Crown & Hops, they're on a mission to make craft beer a more inclusive space.
“Dope & Dank were really pioneers in building diversity in craft beer,” says Chris Maestro, owner and founder of BierWax. “It was just a really great celebration of the beer community. The turnout and energy were fantastic. I’d say it was about 80 percent people of color, which is rare.”
Craft beer has not always been the most welcoming community for people of color, which is what led Hunter and Ashburn to launch the handle #BlackPeopleLoveBeer in the first place. At present, only 50 of the country’s 7,000 craft breweries are black-owned—a grim statistic that Ashburn and Hunter hope to soon change.
The visit to BierWax, along with their trip to the black-owned Harlem Hops the day before, was part of a whirlwind eight-stop tour through the U.K. and U.S. to boost their crowdfunding campaign for Crown & Hops, their own craft brewery in Inglewood, California. Although they’ve teamed up with Scottish brewery BrewDog, Hunter and Ashburn still have to pull together the capital for their launch. To date, the duo has raised over $35,000 in 16 days.
“What we did with Dope & Dank was we would celebrate the dope side of craft beer. This tour allowed us to do that again and more so, to give them an opportunity to champion the funding campaign,” Hunter says. “We wanted to capture that energy and show people that this is bigger than just a brewery opening in California. This is the next step in our movement.”
To take that critical next step, they’re hoping to pull together another $40,000 in the next 12 days. It’s an ambitious plan, one that has the team gearing up for marathon-mode.
What we did with Dope & Dank was we would celebrate the dope side of craft beer. This tour allowed us to do that again and more so.”
“Our plan for the next 12 days is we’re going to launch a campaign called the Price of Premium Pint Push,” Ashburn says. “We’re going to make an option for a $10 donation, but we’ll give people stickers. If we get even half of 15,000 followers to donate $10, we’ll definitely get to the finish line. Honestly, that’s what you pay for a craft pint.”
It’s a small price for progress. For their part, Hunter and Ashburn are optimistic about the more inclusive direction the craft beer industry is moving in, even if there is still progress to be made. Maestro has also seen signs of growth.
“In the past two to three years, there definitely seems to be a push to try and change the landscape a little bit in craft beer. Just being a bar owner, I feel that there are more people of color seeing this as a space that they want to be in and explore,” Maestro says. “People like Teo and Beny are going to be an inspiration to others by starting their own brewery.”