Hopportunity Awaits is a brew on a mission to help highlight careers in craft beer, and inspire more of us to hold the door for the unique talent among us, creating more pathways for diversity, in every sense, across every role. Partial proceeds will benefit Craft x EDU as we work together to launch an educational grant for emerging professionals in craft beer.
On the cans, you will meet 10 industry professionals who are ready to tell their remarkable stories of how they got their start and paved their own path in craft, rules be damned. Without further ado…
Meet Press, whose mission to end violence led to a love of brewing with TRU Colors Brewery.
How did you discover the world of craft beer, or what inspired you to join?
I discovered craft brewing through TRU Colors Brewing. It wasn’t the most sunshine and blue skies type of day, but a detective actually told me about TRU Colors to be honest. He said, ‘Before you can go, there’s a guy who wants to start a brewery. And he wants to sit down and talk to you.’
So of course I wore a shirt and tie. I googled him. I wanted to see who this guy is. It was very weird walking into the meeting because the office that we met in, I knew it as a club from when I was younger. I hadn’t been down there in a while, but now it’s a whole office space. Very unreal. I sat up straight and I really tried to feel him out. George wanted to end gang violence in the neighborhood after there was a young boy killed in a drive-by shooting by starting this brewery to create economic opportunities for the community and hiring gang members.
I took the job because of their social mission to decrease violence. That was the most important thing for myself and my community, but my love of brewing came after. I started on the operations side in packaging and cellar work. I said, “Hey I want to learn. I’ll get some boots, whatever you need. Just teach me how to do it.” I started off by cleaning kegs. Which is crazy, because it’s like, “What does cleaning kegs have to do with brewing?” But brewing is mostly about cleaning. You have to learn how to take care of your equipment. I’m going to produce a good product all the way from start to finish.
I learned a lot with everyone because this was all new and then I eventually started brewing. When I first started, controlling the temperatures was one of the hardest things to learn with the mash because we didn’t have all of the automatic equipment like we do now. And then what we call vorlaufing, when you’re recirculating the beer, and just, “Oh my God, it’s like playing with grits! I mean, it was thick.” Understanding the measurement and the calculations behind it was cool. Now we have an automatic system and I am very, very thankful. At the end of the day, doing this is important because I did not see anyone who looked like me in the industry and I want to change that.
What do you love about the craft beer community? Where would you love to see it grow or improve?
One thing I love is the local united front these guys have. It didn’t matter what side of town you are from or how long you’ve been brewing. It was community based. And that little group of people was very welcoming. Because honestly it was a difficult time for me. It’s not every day that you see a black guy with urban clothes on just going into your brewery, like “Yeah, we tryin’ to brew.” So just to be received in a way that’s welcoming, it helps you feel at ease and that’s one thing that I really love about it. It’s my chance to produce a product that doesn’t just make a difference for a company, but actually makes a difference in people. Because you got guys who without this, they wouldn’t have those jobs. If it’s an economic problem, this is where we can make a difference.
One thing I would like to see change, is I would like to see more inclusion of black people in the industry. You don’t have to know everything about beer to start, you really don’t. Just trying something new and learning. If more black people knew the opportunities in this industry it would be more diverse but beer companies currently just do not target our demographic.
What types of skills have helped you personally succeed in this industry? What advice would you give someone looking to become a brewer, but may not know where to start?
My eagerness to learn has helped me in a big way. My will to keep going and commitment to get it right are what have kept me here. Having the drive to survive the life I’ve led gives me the power of knowing I can conquer any challenge that comes my way. Everything starts with a conversation. When I didn’t know anything about beer, I didn’t have George or anybody else say, ‘Hey, we need you to learn this.’ I took it upon myself to go after it.
If you have a goal in your head, you have to ask the questions and a door will open. So speak up and don’t let the world define you. Because once you sit down and have that conversation, you may be more like someone than what you believed.
Who in the craft beer industry do you admire?
I really admire Mike Gerhart. He works with a company in Canada called Turn Key and he was really important in my growth as a consultant and friend. He really whipped me into shape and helped me appreciate it more. Kevin Zelnio really gave me the opportunity to work with him one on one and learn how to brew. Mike Potter from Black Brew Culture. He is an inspiration because he actually started highlighting black brewers and the lack of diversity in the industry.
What is the most memorable brew you’ve ever had?
I had the opportunity to work on a collab brew post George Floyd called “Black is Beautiful.” It was incredibly meaningful to be a part of that for obvious reasons. I also like TRU Light from TRU Colors brewing and Miller Lite.
What is your favorite beer you’ve ever brewed?
It is a vanilla coffee blonde ale that actually started around conversations. We had something that we did called “Black and White Parties.” We’d invite 50 black people and 50 white people to sit down and have conversations speed dating style. Because like I said, when you sit down and have a conversation, you can let your guard down and see someone for who they are. When you look on the media and see ‘gang,’ you think one thing. But you really don’t know those people because things like that can be broken up. Having a conversation can give you a new understanding. You can sit down and talk to one of these guys and be like, “This guy is damn smart.”
I really liked that one because it was something I was passionate about and I got to make the recipe and everything. It took a lot of trial and error. I never knew that one vanilla bean could give you so much vanilla. And the coffee was like “Wheew, yeah we might want to use an extra filter.” It took trial and error, but when it was finally ready, I loved it.
Keep in touch. New things coming soon!
Click here to meet more of our talented rule-makers and read their remarkable stories. Once you hear what they have to say, you will realize that yes, you can brew it too.