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Most historians acknowledge that the art of beer brewing was perfected in Africa. While the ancient Sumerians are widely credited with inventing the drink some 6,000 years ago, it’s the Egyptians’ version (a smoother, lighter brew) that most resembles the beverage commonly consumed today.
Bet you didn’t learn that in history class. Thankfully, movements like Draught Season are starting to rewrite the curriculum. With its line of attention-grabbing tees and hoodies, the 2020-launched lifestyle brand out of Atlanta is raising awareness to the contributions of Black brewing innovators.
Co-signed by influential voices like rapper Killer Mike, Draught Season aims to educate the masses on past triumphs while shining a long-overdue light on important names paving craft beer culture’s future, like Ale Sharpton, a beer journalist who released the chocolatey Piano Keys, a dope collaboration with New Belgium Brewing, and Harlem Brewery’s Celeste Beatty, the first Black woman to own a brewery in the U.S.
But attaining knowledge is merely one part of the lesson. To get the full understanding, you need a first-hand appreciation. And that’s where this list comes in. From impressive IPAs out of California to a smooth rosé flown in from France, these exquisite pours from Black producers not only deserve your respect but prove more than worthy of a purchase on your next store run, too.
Best Black-Owned Whiskey Brand: Uncle Nearest
Probably the most buzzed-about label on this round-up, Fawn Weaver’s whiskey has been profiled in The New York Times and Forbes since its 2017 inception. Of course, when your backstory centers around the former slave who taught Jack Daniels everything he knew about distilling, it makes sense that folks would have an interest. Beyond being an essential history lesson, though, Uncle Nearest offers a strong-yet-smooth taste that goes perfectly with a steak, roasted chicken or nothing else at all.
Best Black-Owned Rosé Brand: La Fête du Rosé
La Fête came into existence because of an absence. CEO Donae Burston didn’t see any other rosé catering to a diverse clientele so he started his own in 2019. This St. Tropez export dazzles with a blend of dried fruit, hazelnut and bonbons before finishing with a hint of cherry. But as the company showed during the tumultuous summer of 2020, when it donated $2 from every bottle sold to the fight for racial justice, its whole story is only beginning.
Best Black-Owned Beer Brand: Green Bench
One of the most well-known Black-owned brewing companies, St. Petersburg, Florida-based Green Bench has organically risen among the hoppy heap with local ingredients, creative blends and an unapologetic local focus—and co-owner/head brewer Khris Johnson wouldn’t have it any other way. The next time you crack one open let it be Green Bench’s Honey Saison. The French-style ale tantalizes taste buds with orange peels, coriander and Florida-harvested honey.
Best Black-Owned Vodka Brand: Black Momma
Vanessa Braxton deserves all her (naturally infused) flowers. The mind behind Black Momma is not only the owner of the only Black-led tea and beverage manufacturing facility, but she’s also the first African-American female distiller and master blender. And if all of that weren’t baller enough, Braxton’s Oregon-distilled vodka stands toe to toe with her European counterparts, and it does so in a host of fun flavors like pomegranate, peach and chai.
Best Black-Owned IPA Beer Brand: Crowns & Hops
Focused on inclusivity in the brewing world, Teo Hunter and Beny Ashburn created the lifestyle brand Dope & Dank and, later, Crowns & Hops beer. The duo took its love of craft beers into the heart of black communities in California, schooling on the distinctions between chocolate wheats and whatever it is they put in mainstream beers these days. Sample the differences for yourself in the fruity BPLB (“Black People Love Beer,” of course) Double IPA or the full-bodied HBCU Hazy IPA.
Best Black-Owned Bourbon Brand: Saint Cloud
Ray Walker’s family has deep roots in Kentucky, so he knows all too well the importance bourbon has in the Bluegrass State. Walker takes that understanding (along with an extensive background in wine making) with him along every stage of his micro-batch bourbon’s production. You can’t help but taste the Southern pride and precision in Saint Cloud Kentucky Straight Bourbon’s seven-year-aged single barrel and the 13-year release.
Best Black-Owned Rum Brand: Ten To One
While Ten To One is not an African-American-owned company, we’d be remiss to compose a roster of standout spirits and not mention the delicious things Marc Farrell is doing with his label. Like a tasty trip around the Caribbean with every sip, this rum takes key flavor elements from Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Farrell’s native Trinidad. The finished product, available in dark and an un-aged white variety, proves an elevated taste that everyone can enjoy.