Thursday, December 20, 2018

12-20-18 #JustReflecting Yes, blood may be thicker than water, but everyone needs water to survive, and so does family!

Yes, blood may be thicker than water, but everyone needs water to survive, and so does family!

Written By Anwar Curtis (@acthemayor)

Some of the best advice my mother could have ever given me growing up was to be careful who I did business with. Many people are encouraged not to do business with friends or family due to the high-risk of being taken for granted. It's no surprise, everything isn’t for everyone however, I would encourage anybody who has an interest in becoming a business owner to do so with friends or family they connect with that will balance the decision making process.

Mid year (2018) I sat down with three friends turned business partner’s who found an interest in brewing beverages together thanks to their love for drinking responsibly together as a family. This brotherhood has faced many obstacles while pursuing ownership of the first Black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania, but then again what family doesn’t. Its like the movie Soulfood, when big moma said “ One finger pointing the blame don't make no impact. But you ball up all them fingers into a fist...and you can strike a mighty blow. This family got to be that fist.” I believe the masterminds behind the Harris Family Brewery has what it takes to be that fist, just like the family in Soulfood…but enough of me trying to tell you their story…let me allow these bruddah’s to share their journey…and oh yeah don’t mind them because they’re Just Reflecting!

A.C. the MaYoR: Let's dig right in, why a brewery?

Shaun: The whole idea behind what we really want to do is bridge the gap between people that drink Colt 45 and Miller Highlight and stuff like that and get them engaged in drinking craft beer. If the idea is to drink something that gets you buzzed, we can bridge that gap and give you something that taste unique and still gets you buzzed lol…while keeping that economic growth in our community.

A.C. the MaYoR: What is an obstacle when getting black people to buy into the craft beer culture…I mean from my own observation when I’m out, especially with friends, we indulge in light or brown liquor way more than a craft beer?

Shaun: We want to broaden people’s horizons…the problem with the craft brewery industry is it being extremely white and black people like myself and Tim, didn’t even know what craft beer was and that was five to six years ago. I honestly just thought all beer was beer.

A.C. the MaYoR: So what exactly is a craft beer?

Shaun: A craft beer is basically a beer that escapes that golden, bubbly beer that we have Americanized as like a Pilsner such as Bud Lite, Miller Lit, even Heineken to some extent and Corona, we are going to categorize as beers. A craft beer is something people can go outside the box with the flavors, textures, smells, and the profile of the beer in general. A standard beer has been made for hundreds of years, with craft beer people are pushing the envelop and trying to figure out different smells and tastes people can create while hitting home on the alcohol content.

A.C. the MaYoR: When did the conversation amongst you three begin, wanting to dive into the brewery industry?

Shaun: IMMEDIATELY! We are talking days after when we found out that we can make beer, which led to us saying we should sell beer.

A.C. the MaYoR: So you guys were on the type time of selling the beer that you make?

Shaun: Yes, immediately we were saying we should sell the beer that we make. And that’s because we brought a product out that was good and we enjoyed amongst ourselves.

JT: I actually didn’t start liking beer until we started to make them. Once we started making beer, I became a beer snob and it was a wrap from there lol.

A.C. the MaYoR: You have to share with me the experience when you all first starting brewing at the crib lol.

Shaun: We started with a home brew kit and ran through it. We then decided that this was stupid and that we needed more beer and with my background being in computer engineering, and we figured out that it was more about nobs and buttons, more water here and a different temperature, it was a wrap and we started to figure out how to make it bigger and bigger and bigger. Our task was how to make it as big as we could within the law. And all within a couple of days span, the light bulb when off and we believed that we could do this.

Tim: I must say that it was a learning curve. We’ve been home brewing ever since, so once we started we didn’t stop and Shaun and TJ perfected the craft as much as they could. One of the most beautiful things about this is there is so much research so you really don’t have to make anything up. The blueprint is already there and it just so happens that we are black and that’s just unheard of. Harris Family Brewery will be the first black brewery in Pennsylvania, and we are following the footsteps of Brooklyn Brewery and Black Frog.

A.C. the MaYoR: Lets go back for a second on how to draw people in…what are some goals you all have in mind to really make an impact locally and culturally? 

Shaun: Well just like the Black Brew Culture, we all are trying to bridge the gap and introduce black people into craft beer by sharing it with them and also bringing people into the fold who are black that make craft beer or home brew. Even that community is small and what we would like to do within the Harris Family Brewery is to do a lot to grow that home brewing community amongst African-Americans because we I mean lets be honest we’ve always drank lol, but we get stuff and are very innovative as a people, and the box that we are kept in most of the time is just a mental box. When I tell people that I make beer, there were people that said I can do this at my house too, and I said yes you can and let me show you how to do it because who knows what you have to bring to the table and that’s dope because I don’t want it to just be us making beer, or at home brew clubs because that’s what it was, just us and we were like nope, we were feeling it.

A.C. the MaYoR: How was that environment being the only blacks and participating in Home Brew Clubs?

Shaun: Some of those Home Brew Communities were extremely racist and it just wasn’t cool, so we hopped out of those Home Brew communities. Now we were in those communities at a time when the country was super divided which was in 2014…you know we have a Black President and people were mad, cops were getting off with police brutality, confederate flags were being hung up all over the place, and we weren’t feeling it. Like Tim said, the blueprint was out there and HACC and Shippensburg has courses on both the brewing side and the agricultural side.

Tim: My issue is this…craft beer is very popular in Harrisburg. There’s over twenty brewery’s locally and none of them are on our side of town. From Cameron Street all the way to the Colonial Park Mall, you finding a craft beer on tap is very scares, that’s the main population that we all live in first and foremost, we raise kids there, we go to school there, we work there, and now we want to really add to the community by starting a really strong business and craft beer is a booming business.

A.C. the MaYoR: And the Harris Family Brewery will be the first black owned brewery correct and how receptive were the other craft brewery owners if I’m saying it correctly lol?

Shaun: We will be the first fully black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania. No partnerships, no secret seed money, no silent partner, its all from the muscle. And the other brewery’s were extremely receptive and helpful to the point where we were almost apprehensive, thinking that they were competition, and what we learned is that everybody wants to help each other grow and when the craft brew culture in Central Pennsylvania saw us, do whatever they could to help us push forward, and that’s a dope feeling. 

A.C. the MaYoR: Tim what are you most excited about during this process?

Tim: That our brewery will only serve beers freshly brewed by Shaun and TJ from our location, and eventually will collaborate with other local brewers, and have our beers on tap at other locations that have been standing in Harrisburg for twenty to thirty years and then branch out to York, Lancaster, Philly, etc., from there.

A.C. the MaYoR: How important is this in regards to building this brotherhood?

Shaun: People ask us all of the time if we are really brothers and our response is always this…the Harris Family Brewery, we are not related by blood, but we are related by blood lol. But do you want to know how important this brotherhood really is…this whole company was derailed in 2017 because half of us weren’t speaking to the other half. Everybody’s energy was off and other businesses were being affected. So about November, December when we were like, alright its been a year, nobody is fighting nobody, so what are we really doing. After a year we felt like we wasted a year, and as soon as we got back on track everything started to click!

A.C. the MaYoR: Could you bruddah’s give me some insight on your specific roles regarding HFB?

JT: I am the co-brew master and also co-owner. I am the guy that stands with Shaun in the kitchen, making sure everything is correct. It’s all about team work!

Tim: I am co-owner and operations manager…I currently don’t brew and it’s no secret! It’s a science and I live it to scientist.

Shaun: I am also co-owner and brew master.

A.C. the MaYoR: What is everyone’s favorite in-house beer?

JT: My first favorite recipe is the flagship, which is Formula 58 is more citrus, my second is Bando Black is a dark stout, and my third is Cuban Must Die is a black chocolate smell, which we just created and each beer represents the three of us. When we first started to do this, it amazed me and now has a special place in my heart for Harris Family Brewery that will never go away. 
A.C. the MaYoR: Going into this would you consider it more of a dream or a passion:

Everyone: Passion!!!

Shaun: We found it or it found us, we clicked, and now we are REALLY passionate about making it happen. Kids grow up wanting to be firefighters and astronauts, I don’t know nobody that brews beer. It’s a passion because I’m telling you that first day that we first made beer and that light bulb went off, we said we can do this and people will buy this for three to five dollars, and it was a wrap from there and that’s what makes it a passion. You know, after all of the beer is gone and the pots and pans need to be washed, the passion keeps you going because that’s not the fun part but we know what comes after that.

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And As Always...And Until Next Time...Let's Remember This Time!!!


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