Black women and beer may not be top of mind when thinking of likely pairings, but Celeste Beatty and other Black women brewers like herself are working hard to change that. Enter Harlem Brewing Company founded in 2000, the brewery that made Beatty one of the first, if not the first Black woman to launch one.
The North Carolina native moved to New York in 1993, and began a home brewing business in Harlem shortly after. And while she has yet to open a taproom in the Black mecca, she is soon to launch Harlem Brew South, that is, if she manages to get enough financial backing. Beatty and her team are currently crowdsourcing funds to open a space that will serve not just as a taproom, but as an educational center as well.
“The project we’re working on in Rocky Mount is really a digging-in kind of project where we want to create the Brewers Village to try to create a space where people in the community — many of whom I meet day to day — have never imagined they’d be brewing beer. So we’re about to start our first class for people who want to just learn some basics about brewing and give them an opportunity to do that intergenerationally.”
While Celeste Beatty has been in the beer business for some time now, she tells HuffPost that she actually got her start in the ice cream industry.
After being introduced to ice cream icons Ben and Jerry, she helped them open up their first partner shop in Harlem. She says that more than learning about frozen treats, the sweetest and greatest educational opportunity it provided came from all she learned about community engagement.
“When I met Ben and Jerry — the company, them and their team — I saw business and craft in a very different way, and I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are doing something they love, but they’re coming to Harlem in the middle of a drug pandemic to open up an ice cream shop?’ I mean, how could something like that be successful and how could they make a difference?”
When it comes to her craft beer company, Beatty wanted to apply what she’d learned from Ben and Jerry’s community commitments to her own business.
“That experience gave me a lot of things to consider as far as creating a beer company,” she stated. “And thinking about, well, people like drinking beer. But how can we do something good with good beer?”
Beatty is seeking support not just for her brand, but also for the people of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Moreover, she is not here for the virtue signaling many big bank companies perform, especially during Black History Month.
“All these big companies reached out to us because they wanted to support Black businesses,” she told reporters. “But I did ask a couple of them: ‘Can you help people in Rocky Mount? They need a lot of help. Can you help this community organization?’ Because we don’t have deep pockets like that. I get it. You want to help us out in February and that’s a good thing — but what about the rest of the year?”
With the hopeful opening of her taproom in addition to the other community focused projects Beatty is involved in, the brewer is looking to serve a greater purpose for global humanity.
“Well, I may not be able to get people to the table to make peace, but maybe we can get to a bar and share beers,” she expressed. “We have to talk to one another. We have to find places and spaces for whatever the platform is to just discover how much more we have in common. And what excites me about being in the beer business as it is and as it can become is being able to create those moments.”