New Black-owned brewery brings fresh perspective to Grand Rapids craft beer scene
It’s no secret that Michigan has an incredible wealth of craft beer and breweries. But while the microbrew industry might be booming, it’s obvious that it is lacking in diversity— from brewmasters to brewery owners. While we do know some part owners and brewers who are Black, the state’s first fully-Black-owned brewery is set to release its debut beer next week.
Jamaal Ewing and Terry Rostic are the cofounders of Black Calder Brewing. For now, they are contracting with a couple other West Michigan breweries, including Brewery Vivant, to make and sell their beer. They had hoped to have their own brick and mortar location this year, but the pandemic required them to pivot their business plan.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever built a business plan that was designed with 50% occupancy, or even less. Or, you know, only outdoor seating. So we really had to pivot and adjust. And I think that’s the true spirit of an entrepreneur is you know, you just have to adjust,” Rostic said.
Their first beer is being released on the Friday after Thanksgiving— Black Friday—and is a black IPA that has chocolatey notes and a citrusy finish. This beer was the brainchild of Ewing and was the first beer the two men created together.
“That’s Jamaal’s baby. I’ll just say that,” Rostic said. “They’re a tough beer to make. You know, black IPAs aren’t very easy, you can’t really hide too much in there.”
While the pandemic pushed back their plans, the two men say they are still planning on opening their own brewery space soon. They haven’t decided on a location, but say they hope to create a welcoming space for people in that neighborhood to gather. They are also looking to put their brewery into one of the city's neighborhoods that has a lot of Black residents. Those places, they say, haven't always seen the same level of investment as the rest of the city.
Both Ewing and Rostic want to acknowledge the Black people that have perfected the craft of brewing before them. Ewing was inspired to start brewing his own beer after attending the 2018 Fresh Fest Beer Fest in Pittsburgh.
“To be able to see a lot of Black people just enjoying beer and brewing beer is something that I hadn’t seen before, being from here [Michigan],” Ewing said.
Ewing was also interested in studying original brewing techniques from Egypt, Ethiopia, and other countries in Africa. Egypt is the birthplace of beer, and they want to bring this culture and knowledge to Black Calder Brewery. Their logo is based on a South African beer goddess, Mbaba Mwana Waresa, from the Zulu religion of Southern Africa.
In addition to honoring the origin of brewing, Ewing and Rostic want to incorporate their own origin stories into their work. One way they have done this is by incorporating the culture and icons of hip-hop into their product’s artwork. The label for their first beer pays homage to iconic images of hip hop stars.
Black Calder Brewing’s Black IPA is available for preorder and curbside pickup at Broad Leaf Local Beer on November 27. Though the new COVID-19 restrictions have changed their launch party, Ewing and Rostic hope that their vision resonates with beer enthusiasts across the state.
“People who are in this industry are pouring their dreams in a glass for you to drink,” Rostic said. "I’m so excited for people to drink our dream here in another week. I hope they like it because we do.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan