Oakland’s only black-owned brewery is here to make craft beer more diverse


Historically, craft beer hasn’t been an invitation to black Americans, say the owners of Hella Coastal. Years of systemic racial segregation, economic displacement, and practices such as redlining and blockbusters have allowed white-owned businesses to succeed without even having to consider black customers. This seems especially true in the beer industry, which has long been dominated by big companies like Budweiser and Miller who have done very little to reach non-drinkers of white ale. If anything, the craft beer scene of the past two decades has seemed even less viable for those who don’t fit the stereotypical image of a bearded man, wearing flannel and European heritage, sipping a blond beer.

Generally speaking, craft beer just isn’t made or marketed with black or brown customers in mind. Today, that could translate to someone from a historically Black West Oakland neighborhood going to the convenience store to buy an affordable commercial malt liquor rather than going to an upscale neighborhood to buy. a quart of oatmeal at $ 9, more so as the smaller, higher- End craft joints don’t usually open in black quarters.

This is the blind spot that Hella Coastal highlights. And with carefully thought-out collaborations, they approach this disconnect in a creative way.

Part of that has to do with their choice of ingredients and niche themes for the beers they produce. But Benjamin and Hubbard also have a firm belief in giving back to their community in a real way, especially in light of the social injustices that have long prevented black families like theirs from pursuing certain business opportunities.

“As black men, going to the bank and knowing the story of what our grandparents went through, we have to do everything we can and without brakes,” says Benjamin. “We are not doing this for any trend. We come from a place where a lot of options are not guaranteed. We want to change that narrative. We are building this for our children, to create generational wealth. And we’re very grateful to be in that position right now.

Their gratitude transcends rhetoric and slogans. A portion of the proceeds from Scraper Season Saison, for example, was donated to the nonprofit Original Scraper Team, which “empowers urban youth living in underserved communities through self-expression and creativity. »By offering a space for adolescents and adolescents to build and customize their own scrapers. Additionally, the can art was designed by a local artist, who was commissioned to paint his portrayal of young Oaklanders doing wheelies on rainbow rim bikes around Lake Merritt.

Although it has been around for less than a year, Hella Coastal has already made its name known, working with respected local brewers such as Drake’s, Oak Park (a black-owned brewery in Sacramento) and Hunters Point Brewery (which is the only other currently black-owned brewery located in the HP neighborhood of San Francisco). This is how they spread love, the liquid way.

Make beer at Oak Park Brewing in Sacramento. (Coastal Hella)

Their partnership with Berkeley’s Rare Barrel was part of a “Conversations about breathing” series, in which brewers from all walks of life came together to raise awareness of social and racial issues by printing questions on cans and bottles to facilitate dialogues between various beer-drinking communities. In this case, the Rare Barrel took it a step further by offering to donate $ 10,000 to a Hella Coastal organization of choice: Youth Spirit Artworks, a nonprofit that builds tiny homes for homeless youth. in East Oakland. Benjamin and Hubbard say they were pleasantly surprised at the size of the check and were grateful for the support of these larger, more established (and usually white-owned) breweries that seem genuinely invested in creating more capital within the brewing community.


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