A new brewery in Oakland has broken barriers by becoming the city’s first Black-owned brewery.
According to PBS News Hour, one of the country’s few Black-owned breweries is Oakland’s Hella Coastal. The business started in 2020 and is owned by founders Chaz Hubbard and Mario Benjamin. As the two brewers competed with each other to see who could make the best beer while home-brewing, they decided it would be best to start their own brewery together.
“One day, we were brewing together, home-brewing, and kind of brainstorming, like, well, we’re doing this right here. We’re making beer. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. We love the craft. Like, why don’t we try to start a brewery together?”
In appreciation of and to represent where they come from, their latest product is named Oakland Haze which signifies their love for the hometown baseball team, the Oakland A’s. They also did one celebrating Black History Month and Women’s Appreciation Month. It’s named 3900 ‘Til Infinity, and it pays respect to Black female brewers who have been part of the brewery process for centuries.
Hubbard said, “It was 3900 B.C. in Mesopotamia where the first beer recipe is supposed to be conceived by a Black woman, just kind of to knock down those barriers of folks thinking that it’s just like German and European. And we want to make sure that people know the real history of it.
“It’s not just about Black History Month and beer, but it’s also like, yo, like, we do this, we have been doing this, we’re going to continue doing it.”
The duo is renting space in a taproom in downtown Oakland, but they hope to open a brick-and-mortar venue in the future. They want it to be a space where people in the community and allies can visit and feel welcomed.
Benjamin added, “And one thing that we want to do in our space is to not only make it inclusive, but we also want to make it a place where people can come in, learn about beer, have different beer styles, but, at the same time, have guest speakers, have artists, have art on the wall that’s representing the community and highlight organizations, nonprofits, initiatives that’s really resonating to — not only to us but just to the community in general.”
They recently got good reviews at Sonoma County’s craft beer festival, where the consumers and brewers were mainly white. Being one of the only Black brewers is a thing right now, but with success, it may encourage others to join them to add more Black owners to the game.