Collaboration, Community, and Racial Equity in Craft Beer: Interview with Teo Hunter of Crowns&Hops
“It’s more than just beer. At the end of the day it is really about the people,” says Teo Hunter of Crowns & Hops Brewing Co.
We carved out some time in both our brewing schedules to talk with Teo after our recent collaboration on the Circle of Crowns Sour Ale. The statement above is an important place to begin if you want to better understand what Teo and his partner Beny Ashburn bring to their brewing and the changes they are committed to creating in the industry.
Brewing is a calling for them that became apparent through social media. It is social media that helped them identify deep rooted problems in the industry and provided them with an outlet to create change.
“Fewer than one percent of craft beer companies are Black Owned so there aren’t many opportunities for a Black man or a Black woman to see themselves in the industry,” says Hunter. He feels that this is one thing that causes the industry to lack the diversity that it should have, given how focused craft beer is on creating community.
“Social media really showed me my community and my place in craft beer,” he says. This discovery led him to better understand his role in the industry. “My calling is to drive diversity, inclusion, and racial equity in craft beer,” he says.
Recognizing the power of social media, Ashburn and Hunter wanted to use the platform to help others find their community, too. Once they announced that Crowns & Hops would be a craft brewing company, their #blackpeoplelovebeer and #brownpeoplelovebeer hashtags started being used locally and then globally.
It wasn’t that the hashtags went viral that’s most important. It’s that they changed things for those who found them and began using them. “People didn’t feel alone anymore,” says Hunter.
Creating this community, sense of belonging, and recognition is just the beginning for what Ashburn and Hunter plan to accomplish. They want to be major contributors to and drivers of expanding this industry. Just changing it by a percent would mean 20 more Black Owned breweries in the country. They want to drive resources for those who are fewest in this industry to provide them their space in it. They intend to move the needle that first one percent and beyond.
“We all benefit from diversity and racial equity,” says Hunter.
The clear mission of Crowns & Hops, as well as their beer, has led to recognition among beer lovers and collaborations with top breweries around the country.
Many of us who love drinking the beer that results from collaborations might think that a collab is simply an act of bringing brewing skill and style together, but it represents something much deeper for the breweries involved.
“When you collaborate it shows alignment. That is a beautiful thing,” says Hunter.
It’s not just about the willingness to share and learn, or the beer. When a brewery collaborates with Crowns & Hops it means they are aligned with their philosophies. The collaboration says that both breweries recognize that there is an issue with diversity and they are committed to doing something about it. Hunter believes that this alignment in ideals and philosophies makes us a better community as a whole.
The alignment and sense of community is also reflected in the #ownyourcrown hashtag used by the brewery.
“It means own your identity, your authenticity. You can be yourself without criticism and we’ll all be better because of it,” he says.
We couldn’t agree more. Here at Full Circle we are proud to be aligned with Crowns & Hops. We also think that alignment resulted in a pretty outstanding beer.