CHARLESTON, SC — For thousands of years, beer has been bringing people together. But in the United States, there is a clear lack of diversity at the top of the craft beer industry.
It is a trend that April Dove and her business partner David White are working to change.
“I think the conversation I’m hoping to start is to say that 'We are here and we’re ready to be acknowledged in your space.' It’s not just a white man with a beard brew anymore. It’s a people of all color brewery and we want Black, brown, blue, green yellow faces in here," said Dove.
They are the owners of Tha-commUNITY.
A conversation with Chris Brown, the co-owner and production manager at Holy City Brewing in North Charleston, began their journey.
“Chris, from Holy City, basically asked me, "How can I get more Black people in my taproom?'” Dove said.
“It was a conversation we were having internally, and we were looking for people in the community we could talk to best address it," Brown said.
Tha-commUNITY's debut beer was brewed and showcased at Holy City Brewing. It allowed Brown to connect with the community about bringing more people of color into his business.
“Connecting with David and April kind of helped those connections happen and bring some people in but then they really rocked it out with the launch of the beer. The first night was crazy. It was like 200 people here just for the beer," Brown said. "And it was all walks of life, like age range, it was young to old, like it was all over the place which was really cool."
Their concept is to brew beers to the palates of people in their communities.
“So I was thinking one night, I was like, "Man, I know a lot of Black people drink Heineken, they don’t drink craft beer and I’m like well what if we brewed a beer that was similar to Heineken or something that was similar to that palette,'" Dove said. “And like write down what we were tasting, what flavors we were getting. All that kind of stuff and like we came up with a recipe and we brewed it and we were like this is golden. This is what they will drink.”
Studying Heineken was at the center of creating this first release; an American lager.
Brown understands his role in the process. White people make up about 58% of the U.S. population, according to the 2020 census. However, an October survey found white people account for nearly 94% of the country’s brewery owners. Only 0.4% are black.
“It’s a tough conversation sometimes as a white business owner. I want to be able to hire all walks of life in my business but if they are not applying for the jobs, there is only so much you can do. So that’s where it takes kind of reaching out to the community around your business," Brown said.
Tha-commUNITY’s journey will always begin at Holy City Brewing.
“Holy City said they’ve seen an increase in Black people at the brewery since the event and that’s exactly what we wanted," Dove said.
Dove and White are ready to see that same result at other spots.
“And with that conversation we’re taking that, we’re going to each taproom and saying you don’t have enough Black people in your space and that’s a problem," Dove said. “My goal is to have these beers simultaneously running so there’s not a place in South Carolina where you can’t get a community beer. I hope that with this, that it will eventually immerse and spread like wildfire."