Sometimes a leader has to do a good bit of following. Just ask Homestead’s Mike Potter, founder and editor-in-chief of Black Brew Culture, an upcoming, online magazine showcasing African-American-owned breweries across the United States, and educating novices in all things craft beer.
To arrive where he is now, Potter had to go through the education process himself: following his taste from big-name craft breweries like Sam Adams to fledgling local brewers, following trends in craft beer, and even following a sandwich board on the side of the road.
Riding his bike around Point Breeze and Homewood one day in 2006, Potter spotted East End Brewing Company’s makeshift sign luring thirsty customers into its original location on Susquehanna Street.
“The sign said they had samplings,” Potter recalls. “There was just a little door. And the door was unlocked.”
Behind that door, Potter got a crash course in craft beer from East End Brewing Company’s Scott Smith, who told him all about hops, grain and fermentation in one brief visit to the brewery. Smith directed Potter to nearby taprooms and bottle shops, like D’s Six Pax & Dogz in Regent Square, where he began to get acquainted with both domestic and imported brews.
However, as Potter became further immersed in the craft beer scene, he noticed the absence of Black faces in craft beer joints — on the drinking side of the bar, and in production.
Within the African-American demographic, says Potter, craft beer wasn’t very well-known or popular.
Rather than trying to force a Black presence within the established neighborhood breweries, Potter’s current focus is on working at a grassroots level both to introduce the African-American community to craft beer, and to get Black-owned breweries off the ground.
Potter decided that an online space would give him the opportunity to quickly develop his vision: a magazine that features current Black-owned breweries, trends in the Black community centered around craft beer and stories of the Black movers and shakers in the craft beer world. It will also include a section dubbed “Vintage BBC,” which archives stories of beers, breweries and the players in the African-American craft beer scene of the past. Additionally, “Black Brew Culture” will launch a lifestyle brand with clothing and accessories sporting the magazine’s label.
In addition to browsing the online magazine, readers can sign up to receive content via an e-newsletter.
As he gets the magazine running, Potter has been proving his commitment to his mission. He recently trekked four hours to Holland, Ohio, where he picked up beer from Black Frog Brewing to deliver to the first annual Harlem Brew Festival in New York.
Although Potter enjoys the personal connection that comes with finding and delivering beer himself and introducing it to new audiences, he sees his upcoming “Black Brew Culture” magazine as a more rapid means of building the Black craft beer community.
“In Pittsburgh, unfortunately, now there’s not really a place to direct people” who want to drink craft beers put out by Black brewers. Potter hopes his efforts with Black Brew Culture, and on the front lines, will help increase the presence of these beers in the city.
By putting out a magazine that connects Black beer drinkers with Black brewers, Potter aims to create a space of familiarity. When a Black-owned brewery is making good beer, Potter says, Black Brew Culture can serve as a forum for connection and mutual recognition for African-Americans.
And Potter is determined: “I think in a couple years, we’ll see more distribution. But I can’t sit back and wait for it to happen.”
Black Brew Culture will launch November 18.
You can follow Black Brew Culture on Instagram @blackbrewculture