Chicago’s Moor’s Brewing Co. Disrupts Craft Beer Industry, Honors Black Culture

Less than 1% of the nation’s craft beer owners are African Americans.

Co-founders, Chicagoans and friends Jahmal Johnson and Damon Patton disrupted that staggering stat by creating Moor’s Brewing Co. on Juneteenth 2021, providing ethnic representation and a stellar product while celebrating African Americans, their community and their culture.

The idea for the brand was developed during the pandemic when co-founder Patton, who holds a background in culinary and hospitality, delivered a large craft beer order to a mansion in Star Island, Miami Beach, where he had lived for 25 years.

He assumed the patrons would be Caucasian but was surprised to see they were Black. He immediately contacted Jahmal to share his idea of recognizing that going into the beer industry would be an underserved niche.

“We should do beer,” said Patton.

Making Moor’s

Frequent business traveler Johnson, who has a background in accounting, visited many small, obscure towns during his career and had been introduced to craft beer while traveling, so he was intrigued.

During Patton’s revelation to go into the brewery business, friends Anthony Bell and Johnson provided a socially safe experience for Chicagoans during the pandemic: a drive-in experience at Soldier Field.

Bell, a marketing professional, had launched other brands for big-name clients, and although he had a separate career from Patton, the two had worked together on marketing, events and more.

The trio decided to go into business together. With Patton’s access to high-end chefs, sommeliers and the hospitality industry in general, Bell’s extensive experience in brand marketing and Johnson’s background in accounting and unique customer experiences, the three were destined for great success with Moor’s Brewing Co.

The gentlemen approached their brand with marketing as a strength, elevating beer and its taste, studying the small percentage of black brewery owners who had integrated into the market.

Assimilating was not their portion.

Deciding to pay homage to the rich and untold history of their African ancestry and the “Original Craftsmen” that made it happen, they agreed on Moor’s Brewing Co., leveraging the history of the Moors, Northern Africans, over 700 years ago.

Johnson recently sat down with The Chicago Defender for an interview.

“We decided on an image of Moorish King Caspar for our beer can, graphically doctored him up, made his face look familiar so people could connect to it, and the rest is history. For us, it was a way to be culture forward, leveraging our history and being cool,” he said.

Freedom Day

Moor’s has had resounding support from Black Chicago and other cultures. In 2021, when the brewery launched, our nation experienced an uproar after the George Floyd case, and more than 30 states had passed 140 oversight and reform laws on local police, according to the New York Times.

In addition, Juneteenth became a federal holiday in the United States, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. On this very day, Moor’s Brewing Co. launched on June 19th, 2021.

The symbolism of Emancipation Day for African Americans celebrating Juneteenth and the significance of freedom day for the owners of Moor’s Brewing Co. highlight their freedom in building a brand and business in which they no longer work for others but themselves and also emphasize liberty for others.

The 2nd anniversary of Moor’s was commemorated on Friday, June 16th, 2023, with an extraordinary Emancipation Ball in which they celebrated their anniversary and Juneteenth as a holiday.

“It was important for us to engage and partner with other African American businesses, and we were very selective about choosing nine high-quality black-owned food vendors to serve food at our event,” said Johnson. In addition to that partnership, the owners of Moor’s Brewing Co. hired two remarkable Black chefs, Danny Bullock and Maurice Wells.

Many other Black-Owned businesses were present, like Black Dessert chefs, photographers, a 360 photo booth, Hall of Famer, DJ Envy and Chicago’s very own DJ Sean Mac, and the bar offered 95% Black-owned spirits, wine and beer.

Overall, it was a grand opportunity for supporters to dress up and look exquisite in the name of freedom and on the holiday we, African Americans, should own. The spirits of the ancestors were pleased. Johnson says the brand looks forward to creating more memories and building from infancy.

The future outlook for Moor’s Brewing Co. is promising. Currently serving its beer in over 400 locations in Chicago, including grocery stores, bars, high-end restaurants, hotels, and airports, the brand is off to a fantastic start in two short years. They aim to continue success as a beer company, distribute nationally and strengthen their relationship with national grocery chains.

Ultimately, Moor’s Brewing Co. would like to create something that people are proud of and continue to receive great support from their community. They started the Care Moor Foundation, which raises money for other initiatives throughout Chicago and the nation, like exposing youth to financial literacy and career paths they aren’t generally introduced to at school or home.

Moor’s Brewing Co. has found the formula for success, creating Chicago’s Black-owned Beer with epic experiences. Their brand is one that Black Chicago connects with.

They buy their products, wear their merchandise with pride and celebrate the beer that pays homage to the rich untold history of our African ancestry.

 

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