Washington’s only black-owned brewery wants everyone to feel welcome
According to the Washington Beer Commission, there are 429 breweries statewide. But Woodinville’s Métier Brewing Company is Washington’s only black-owned brewery.
“It’s sad how rare it is,” said Rodney Hines, Métier’s CEO and co-founder, who pointed out that there are less than 30 black-owned breweries in the country.
“I remember going into a bar not that far from [my home] here in [Seattle’s] Central District. I looked around and I felt like, why am I one of the few folks of color here? Particularly in this historically African American community,” Hines added. “I’ve had friends in the past who would say, ‘Well, maybe black folks don’t like good beer.’ I was like … we do. We may not see ourselves reflected in spaces and, hence, if we’re not reflected, we may not feel welcomed and why would we choose to go there? I think there’s a responsibility if you want to create a vibe where everyone feels welcomed and invited, there’s some intention behind that.”
A diverse, warm, community centered vibe is exactly what Hines purposefully baked into the culture of Métier. He got interested in beer culture while studying abroad in London in college. He loved the pub culture, how it was a welcome space for all, and a place to fuel good conversation. He started brewing beer shortly after graduating.
“Our mission at Métier Brewing is to brew damn good beer and to build stronger community to inspire bigger dreams for all,” he said. “But in terms of how you do it: who you assemble as a team, how that reflects the community that you want to invite into your space. It’s also what you program. When we look at the music that we bring in on a regular basis, the food trucks, the artists who will do the labels for our beer, where we source our ingredients from. We will look for women and folks of color to fulfill all those needs. It’s funny, it may take a lot for some to be purposeful in what you do. To be honest, for us, it’s inherent in who we are. So it feels like it’s easy to do.”
There are definitely race and gender related stereotypes connected to food and drink. Salad has been coded as a feminine food and steak has been coded male. Certain alcoholic beverages, like malt liquor, have been connected to African Americans. I asked Hines why he thinks people assume black people don’t like craft beer.
“There was an era, and I’m certain it still continues, where marketing was done to focus and drive particular product to a demographic,” Hines said. “Of course, the options that we might have in a lower income community are going to be fewer. So we don’t get exposed to craft in some ways; it’s a lack of choice.”
In the restaurant industry, women no longer want to be named Best Female Chef when they could be Best Chef. Why should gender factor into cooking? But the idea of ignoring race, taking a colorblind approach, is outdated and offensive to many who don’t want their cultural differences to be invisible. Does Hines want to be known as a black-owned brewery? Or would he rather Métier just be a brewery?
“I am black year round,” Hines said. “It is not just during Black History Month, and it is not just during a crises like where we are today. I am black, it is who I am. It is a part of the identity that I bring to my brewery. Also, part of the identity of our brewery is we make damn good beer. We’ve won awards with our beer. We are also purposeful in the community values and principals that we have. So we should be known for all of that. As a consumer, you will make decisions based on a business’ responsibility and how they act on their responsibility. I will choose to go places because of how the owner’s values come into play. It’s comprehensive. Does that answer your question?”
Métier also tries to do good for the community. Proceeds from the brewery’s Trailblazer Ale are donated to the Major Taylor Project, a program through the Cascade Bike Club that engages low income kids in bike riding in south King County and Tacoma.
“Major Taylor was a world class athlete and cyclist back in the 1890s, early 1900s,” Hines said. “He spoke of himself as a trailblazer, an African American fellow. So our beer is named after him and recognizes him.”
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