Georgia’s First Black Brewery Hippin’ Hops Crafts Fresh Beer and Seafood

Cuisine Noir. October 2021.

Hippin’ Hops Brewery and Oyster Bar is the first African American-owned brewery in Georgia. Its first location opened this year in May on Glenwood Avenue in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, and two more Hippin’ Hops are scheduled to open later this year, also in Georgia.

Owner Clarence Boston, originally from North Carolina, is a mortician by trade and beer maker by night. He got interested in brewing at an early age. “My grandmother made wine out of fruits she had in her yard, like muscadine, peaches and green apples. She taught me and my brother how to make wine, but my wine always tasted like vinegar. So I decided to make beer instead!” humors Clarence.

Clarence Boston, co-owner of Hippin' Hops Brewery and Oyster Bar
Pictured: Clarence Boston | Photo credit: Hippin Hops

“We opened the brewery during [the] pandemic and are doing extremely well,” he adds. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Boston noticed a rising demand for alcohol. He also saw that microbrewery was a booming business, though there weren’t many African-Americans brewers around. According to Nielsen’s market data, total alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants surged roughly 24% during the pandemic.

Good Food for Good Brews

This is not the first business that Clarence and his wife and business partner Donnica Boston have started. The serial entrepreneurs own a real estate investment company, funeral homes, crematoriums, bars and restaurants across North Carolina and Georgia.

Hippin' Hops beer
Pictured: Beer by Hippin’ Hops | Photo credit Hippin’ Hops

Hippin’ Hops is designed to look like a beer garden with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as fun games such as cornhole, beer pong and Jenga. Brewed on-site are bold, sweet and bitter stouts, sours, ales, lagers, Belgians and IPAs. “Our goal is to introduce people to craft beer,” says Boston. “We don’t have a particular style of beer. We want everybody to come to our brewery, so we brew to appeal to all cultures.”

All in-house beers are made without additives, sugar and unnatural flavorings. Highlights include Bier Saigon – a fruity and flavorful Belgian-style saison with complex aromas that are perfect for drinking during warm summer months – and Top Five, an IPA brewed with sorrel that is also a bestseller.

Donnica helms the kitchen side of the brewhouse, the menu of which is primarily inspired by her Louisiana roots. With shrimp and grits, alligator po’boy and Cajun shrimp deviled eggs on the menu, the food is as much of a focus here as are the drinks.

Oyster collardfeller at Hippin' Hops Brewery and Oyster Bar
Pictured: Oyster collardfeller | Photo credit: Hippin’ Hops

Clarence takes great pride in their variety of east coast oyster preparations – served raw on the half-shell, oyster Rockefeller with homemade cheese sauce, oyster collardfeller with collard greens and smoked turkey, and smoked gouda oysters with garlic butter sauce. Executive chef Jamarius “J.” Banks, a former contestant on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay,” runs the kitchen operations.

Hip Hop and Beer

The trendy name Hippin’ Hops came from Clarence’s love for hip hop music. The brewery and restaurant are designed for friends to lounge through the evening with good food and drinks while listening to a live DJ (Thursday-Sunday).

When the Bostons received an overwhelming response from the public for being the first Black-owned brewery in Georgia with its own location, they “didn’t even know” that they were the first. Less than 1% of the nearly 8,500 craft breweries in America are Black-owned, according to the Brewers Association’s 2019 survey. “Perhaps people think there’s too much investment involved in opening a brewery,” Clarence points as a reason for the gap.

Hippin Hop Brewery and Oyster Bar crew
Pictured: Clarence Boston and Hippin’ Hop team | Photo credit: Hippin’ Hop

His advice to anyone looking to open a brewery is to start small and not to get many investors involved. Also, he recommends hiring expert chefs, managers and brewmasters so that all aspects of the business run smoothly even when you are away. “Most of all, don’t just talk about it, go ahead and do it.”

Hippin Hops Brewery and Oyster Bar is located at 1308 Glenwood Ave. SE in Atlanta.  Go to the website for hours, upcoming events and menu.  You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir. All rights reserved.

Nayana Ferguson of Anteel Tequila Inspires Women to Create Their Own Legacy

Cuisine Noir Magazine. July 2020.

Nayana Ferguson of the Detroit-based spirit brand Anteel Tequila has always loved tequila.  When that love turned into a passion, she co-founded the tequila brand, which is one of the only tequila spirit brands in the United States to be led by a Black woman. Since launching in 2018, Anteel’s Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila and Reposado Tequila have received national recognition in Forbes and Wine Enthusiast, as well as several awards at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

From Dreaming to Doing

In 2016, Ferguson and her husband, Don, were looking for a retirement opportunity to invest in. They had a wild idea of starting a tequila company given her appreciation for the spirit. Only in this situation, Ferguson was a doer, not a dreamer. Over the upcoming months, she researched everything she needed to know about setting up a tequila business and began talking to potential distilling partners in Mexico. Prior to this, Ferguson didn’t have any knowledge of the spirits industry, but she had an MBA and was a corporate business professional.

Co-founder Nayana Ferguson of Anteel Tequila
Pictured: Nayana Ferguson | Photo credit: Cyrus Tetteh

“It took about 11 months to get an actual bottle in hand. We needed a contract with the distillery, approvals by the Mexican government, importer permits from the U.S. government and so forth.” Ferguson recalls months of sampling recipes, learning about the spirits industry, doing research and filing paperwork. She was not able to visit Mexico due to the political climate there, so she relied a lot on FedEx and Google. The chemist at her partner distillery in Mexico would create recipes and send them to Ferguson and her team to sample. After a lot of back and forth, they achieved the desired flavor profiles they wanted to see in Anteel.

Becoming a Market Leader

When asked why Ferguson is passionate about tequila more than any other spirit, she cited it’s health benefits. Tequila is a spirit that is made from the agave plant, so it is naturally gluten-free and low in carbs, sugar and calories than other spirits. “If I’m going to drink, I would drink what is cleaner for me. Obviously, you need to drink tequila neat and not add extra sugars typically found in mixed drinks,” she states. As a pancreatic cancer and breast cancer survivor, Ferguson needs to watch what she puts into her body and minimize any effects of alcohol. She says that agave does not spike your blood sugar. Unlike other spirits, tequila is said to be an upper, not a downer, and can lift your mood, which is another reason why she likes tequila.

Anteel Tequila claims to have the world’s only coconut lime-flavored tequila, one that took a lot of flavor balancing but is something Ferguson and her other co-founders wanted. It is produced by using natural coconut extracts and avoiding synthetic flavors, which also makes drinking neat easy and flavorful.

Not many tequilas rest their Reposado in whiskey barrels (most use America oak barrels) as Anteel does. This infuses a unique char and flavor into their tequilas. Another thing that makes the brand stand out is the combination of blue agave from highland and lowland.

The Michigan-based brand recently changed the name to Anteel Tequila from TEEQ (Tequila of Extraordinary and Exquisite Quality), which is short for Antillean, a species of hummingbird.  The bird that inspired the name and the logo serves as a reminder of the Fergusons’ first discussion while in the Dominican Republic four years ago as well as the vision for the brand.

Drink with Anteel Tequila's Coconut Lime
Picture: Anteel Coconut Lime Blanco Tequila | Photo credit: Anteel Tequila
Continuing to Push Through

Like many businesses, Anteel has faced a few challenges this year, but they’ve continued to prevail by connecting with their clients and vendors. “Since bars and restaurants are not ordering as much, we are promoting online ordering. We have tried to stay proactive by doing social media marketing and making sure the product is still being produced,” says Ferguson about how she is managing her brand since the pandemic began. Business closures and staff shortages have in turn affected her supply chain, making the production time longer.

Even before the pandemic, it was challenging being an African-American woman in the tequila business for Ferguson. “When I walk into a store, initially some people don’t think I know what I am talking about. But once they see that I have done my homework, they begin to accept me,” she says.

As a mother of two young girls, Ferguson hopes to pave the wave for other Black women who feel they can’t break into a male-dominated business. She advises, “You don’t need to know everything, but you can start somewhere and learn along the way.” She encourages others to go for their dreams and create their own legacies.

Anteel Tequila is made and bottled in Mexico and imported to the U.S. through a distributor in Michigan. The products are available for sale at restaurants, bars and stores in Michigan, California and Florida as well as online. Ferguson recommends checking your local state laws for receiving alcohol by mail.

~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir Magazine.