Fresh Fest co-founder Day Bracey shared how the first U.S. beer festival of black-owned craft breweries came together during a conversation earlier this month during the Brewbound Live business conference in Santa Monica.
Fresh Fest offers black beer drinkers an experience that’s rare in an industry whose producers and consumers are mostly white men.
“It’s important for people to see people doing well who look like them,” Bracey said. “We are able to provide a safe space, build a space where people don’t feel weird about going in and asking about a product.”
Fresh Fest started in August 2018 in Pittsburgh with 10 of the country’s nearly 60 breweries with black owners. To fill out the rest of the festival lineup, Bracey, Ed Bailey and Mike Potter asked Pittsburgh craft breweries to collaborate with black artists, entrepreneurs and politicians to brew exclusive beers to pour at the festival. As word spread, craft breweries nationwide asked to join and each provided another chance for local artists and entrepreneurs to get involved.
“How do you build those bridges?” Bracey asked. “You do that by going to the community and offering them opportunities.”
Bracey encouraged brewery owners to hire employees of color and reach out to the people living in the areas near their breweries if they want to create a more diverse industry.
“Craft beer is a blind spot for the black community, but it’s largely because the black community has been a blind spot for the craft beer community,” he said. “Nobody’s coming into our neighborhoods and saying ‘Hey, we’ve got jobs over here, we’ve got opportunity.”
In addition to his work on Fresh Fest, Bracey is a comedian, the co-host of the Drinking Partners podcast with Bailey, and a columnist for the Pittsburgh Current.
Watch his conversation with Brewbound editor Justin Kendall above, and subscribe to Brewbound on YouTube to see more presentations from the conference.