There’s a popular adage that goes whoever invented beer is a wise man. What’s most interesting about this is, a man didn’t invent it at all. Women did. In fact, Black women are responsible.
Despite Mesopotamians (modern-day Iraq) being widely credited, ancient Africans brewed beer throughout the African continent well before any European or Asian settlers developed their own technique, or introduced their tactics to Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Historians cite the Bantu-speaking tribes for inventing the brewing practice sorghum, with women being the traditional brewers of African beers; men were the traditional consumers. This is seldom discussed in beer circles, but Kemet Coleman has always known the pivotal Black people played in brewing origins, especially Black women.
The musician and craft beer enthusiast would often share the rich intersectional history with friends, and finally decided during the pandemic that it was time to invest in his interest.
“I’d always had a dream of opening my own brewery after being exposed to the world of craft beer around 2013, so seven years later in lockdown, I didn’t have any excuses for why I couldn’t start planning to make it happen,” the Kansas City, Missouri native said. “It just makes sense, you know? Our town is a big sports and beer town so I figured it was time to take the leap.”
He not only leaped, but he took his friends Woodie Bonds, Jr, and Elliot Ivory along for the plunge.
Together, this past month they officially launched Vine Street Brewing (VSB), located near Kansas City’s historic jazz district. The location, much like the company’s logo, visual branding, and flagship product are all interspersed with the Black story.
“Black women were the first to start brewing and enough people don’t speak about that,” Coleman told ESSENCE. “That’s why we created the emblem we have to represent the brand,” he said, referring to the afrocentric animation that dons the brewery’s walls and beer label.
The brewery’s first beer offering, the Jazzman black lager, recently became available to customers at locations across the city at the beginning of March, and it has already become an incredible hit among locals.
“We’re not even open, but we’re in 45 different restaurants environments in Kansas City, Missouri,” Coleman said. He also confirmed that VSB will be tapping into the Kansas side of Kansas City—Missouri’s neighboring state.
“We can go to both states easily and fortunately, we’ve got demand for it.”
He also shared that their product will be sold at Kansas City National Airport, one of the few Black beer brands in the country to have secured a distribution deal of that kind.
“To be amongst one to do something like this with an international airport is pretty crazy—it’s a pretty significant position to be in. There’s so much we’ve contributed to American culture, ad beer is a cultural staple. It’s time that story is told more.”