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BOSSIP Exclusive: First Beer Maker Since Prohibition Coming to Harlem

celeste inside

Harlem’s First Black-Owned Brewery To Open In Historic Building This Year

The first beer maker to operate in Harlem since Prohibition will serve lager with a side of local lore.

The Harlem Brewing Company will open a small batch brewery in a historic Strivers Row building later this year, it’s owner Celeste Beatty told Bossip. Part brewery, part restaurant and part classroom, the African-American owned Harlem Brewery will be a spot where customers can swill a beer, have a meal and then learn how to make their own booze.

“It’s the Harlem brewing experience that we’ve been trying to develop for so many years,” Beatty said. “It’s really a place for the community to connect and talk about beer and food. The vision is to create a living room – a living lab – for all things beer.”

The pub and brewery is set to open this Fall in the 1910 building that Harlem Renaissance composer Noble Sissle – famous for penning “I’m Just Wild About Harry” – used as his song shop. In later years, the building at the corner of West 138th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. was home to the original Red Rooster, a legendary Harlem nightspot.
“That history is very important,” Beatty said. “We’re excited! We’re excited about the space.”

beer and food pic inside

Beatty got into the booze business almost by accident. A friend gave her a home-brewing kit, and she began making small batches of beer in her kitchen for fun. She founded Harlem Brewery in 2000, making a name for herself in the male-dominated craft beer scene with her “Sugar Hill Ale,” and “Renaissance Wit.”

“Brewing is not a gender-specific profession,” Julia Herz, a spokesperson for the Brewers Association said. “But, traditionally we have seen more males in these roles, and that is slowly evolving.”

The company has been brewing suds on a large scale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but Beatty said she has always wanted to brew beer in the neighborhood her product is named for. Large industrial buildings are hard to find uptown.
“This is not a production brewery,” Beatty said. “It’s a small, artisanal brewery.”

Harlem’s speakeasy culture during Prohibition birthed what we today consider to be the nightclub scene, as well as scores of under the radar booze operations. Beatty said she hopes the pub/brewery will continue that legacy.
“We want to reclaim that,” Beatty said. “We want to revive that tradition of breweries.”

The Harlem Brewery will be hosting several events in honor of New York City Beer Week, from Feb. 20 to March 1. For more info, visit NYC Beer Week  or the Harlem Brewery Company.

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