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For The Culture Is Houston’s First Black-Owned Brewery Offering Up Diversity On Tap Via Craft Beers

For The Culture has a unique twist: it's a “craft-culture exchange” brewery that shares the space with a woman-owned brewery, Ovinnik Brewing.

Jonathan Brown and Carl Roaches Jr brought the City of Houston its first Black-owned brewery, For The Culture on Oct. 21, 2023, but their brewery has a unique twist: It’s a “craft-culture exchange” that shares the space with a woman-owned brewery, Ovinnik Brewing. As ABC 13 reports, that concept is the only one of its kind in both the State of Texas and its flagship city, Houston. Ovinnik is run by Janine Weber and Jen Mathis, and the benefit to such an arrangement is a mutual and cooperative ownership.

Roaches described the collaborative atmosphere to ABC 13, saying, “They’ve become like a family to us,” before Weber, who is also the head brewer at Ovinnik, added, “To see people smile and sit around a table like a whole family, like, eight people sitting around a big picnic table laughing and toasting. That’s what we want. We just want people to be happy and enjoy each other’s company. And beer, it’s better than cocktails.”

Before they acquired the brewery space, Brown and Roaches operated their business out of Brown’s garage. “That’s where we’ve been for the last four years. My wife is so excited about this, so I can get out of her garage. Hers. Not ours,” Brown told ABC 13 in 2022. “I have so much equipment there, and she’s been awesome.” 

Starting a brewery, however, is not cheap, most estimates place starting costs anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million, depending on the size of the brewery and the type of drinks on offer. Brown and Roaches operated For The Culture out of a garage not only to keep overhead costs as low as possible but also because it is difficult to obtain the permit to sell alcohol, which requires you to have a building as well as equipment.

Eventually, the pair was connected with Michael “Mufasa” Ferguson, who serves as a mentor and consultant, and is the company’s brewer emeritus as he is one of the first Black master brewers of beer in America. Ferguson says it was his idea to merge the two companies as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, as he told ABC 13, “Oh, and COVID happened and made everything much more expensive.” Ferguson continued, “Both of them are saying, ‘We need a lot more investors.’ And it’s like, ‘Here’s the plan. Why don’t you two get together and open up under the same roof? It’s a woman-owned brewery and a Black-owned brewery, and it’s a joint venture, and it’s just never been done in Texas before. So, let’s do something new.”

Ferguson also has some ideas about how advertising campaigns have limited the exposure of Black and other people of color to craft beers, instead advertising companies elected to associate Black people with malt liquor. “I blame that on advertising and the way that they advertise differently for people of color when it came to beer and things like that…. Billy Dee Williams on Colt 45 billboards,” Ferguson said. “It’s like, ‘OK, you’re people of color. You’re drinking malt liquor, right? OK, you aren’t people of color. You’re drinking Hamms and Olympia.’ The fact is there was no avenue for people of color to get into this industry because it wasn’t one that presented itself to the community at large.”

One of the forces that helped push For The Culture together was Hurricane Harvey, which lashed the city with severe flooding and damage. Roaches says that experience galvanized him and the others, telling ABC 13, “It’s like, ‘Well, yeah, we could die today. So, if we live tomorrow, why not?’ And so that was kind of our impression of how we went about it. And it was something that we put our minds to.”

Roaches also described how the beers foster community between all kinds of people, and given that Houston is a global city, it’s a natural connection. “For us, it’s just about being able to present not only some classic takes on beer, but also some remixes,” Roaches said, before adding that the breweries are sending a signal to the larger Houston community that they’re here and whether you look like them or not, you can come out and enjoy what they’re pouring.

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