How a New Association Plans to Increase Black Brewery Ownership

Kevin Johnson — the former NBA player, past mayor of Sacramento and current owner of Oak Park Brewery — is the mind behind the newly formed National Black Brewers Association, which seeks to make beer industry more inclusive by providing black brewers access to the resources, mentorships, and networks needed to thrive.

Executive Director Kevin Asato jokingly refers to himself as “the second Kevin,” but he was brought in to help the organization thrive. Asato has more than 30 years in the beverage industry — most notably in leadership positions at major beverage distributors — and he said the organization seeks to pick up where other associations have left off by helping with identifiable Black issues. 

READ MORE: National Black Brewers Association Officially Launched

Fewer than 1% of brewery owners in the United States are Black, and the organization’s first quantifiable goal is increasing Black brewery ownership, Asato said, although he said that the organization sought to tackle many other issues.

“Where we’ll be in a year or five years, we’re still 100% formulating that, but one milestone we’re looking at is ownership, and we want to grow it by 10% in the first 12-18 months,” Asato told Brewer Magazine. “We have a plan and we benefit by seeing what other beer associations are doing, and it will shape a lot of our direction, but we’ve got to look at where they leave off from a political advocacy standpoint or legislative perspective.”

News of the new association broke during the 2023 Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, as did news of its first major donation — $225,000 from Boston Beer Company, better known as Samuel Adams.

READ MORE: Boston Beer Company Dedicates $225K to National Black Brewers Association

Asato said having a partner like Boston Beer Company meant more than just financial support. It means additional resources that could help educate professionals about issues such as financial literacy, which he said represented an obstacle to Black brewery ownership.

“Just because you have money doesn’t mean you know how to manage it,” Asato said. “It would be dangerous if you handed over a check and didn’t ensure that there was an education and a capability to manage it properly. So this becomes a massive aspect of what we offer.

“As we find additional partners, those resources aren’t just limited to financial — it could be HR, or people management, or tax management. It could mean trying to get purchasing discounts — if there is equipment to buy, we could get them discounts if we can hit that level of influence. We’re far from saying we can finalize the list of benefits that can be realized.”

Getting involved politically also factors into the association’s plans.

“We miss real opportunities to connect with our Black legislators, and they can’t speak to the financial impact that we create in their regions and that’s a missed opportunity,” Asato said. “So, one thing is to connect with them and help them understand and articulate our financial viability from an economic standpoint as well as a job and employment standpoint. We can provide significant nuggets of information to our legislators so they can help us.”

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