Beer Town: Black-owned Atlanta brewery Khonso finalist for national program

Kevin Downing of Khonso Brewing (from left) is seen with George Kepler of Strange Roots (a collaborating partner) and Corby Hannah and William Teasley of Khonso. (Courtesy of Khonso Brewing)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Kevin Downing of Khonso Brewing (from left) is seen with George Kepler of Strange Roots (a collaborating partner) and Corby Hannah and William Teasley of Khonso. (Courtesy of Khonso Brewing)

Atlanta’s Khonso Brewing, one of the few Black-owned breweries in Georgia, has been selected as one of six finalists for Samuel Adams’ Brewing the American Dream program.

Khonso’s three founders, Kevin Downing, Corby Hannah and William Teasley, will travel to Samuel Adams’ Boston Brewery June 7 for the mentoring program that supports local food and beverage entrepreneurs across the U.S. with access to capital, networks and business coaching.

I caught up recently with Teasley, who serves as Khonso’s spokesman and proudly claims to have converted to craft beer when he tasted his first Samuel Adams lager while attending Boston College.

“We all started home brewing about a decade ago,” Teasley said. “We came together under this concept of we love beer, and we’re friends, so let’s try making it.

“In 2017, we took that jump to do it commercially. As a part of that journey, we came up with the name, which was the name of the ancient Egyptian brewer, Khonso Im Heb, so there is an African connection.”

In 2018, Khonso released its first beer, Standing Peachtree, a pale golden ale brewed with peaches and cardamom.

“Since then, we’ve made a variety of different styles, and we’ve collaborated with a lot of the Atlanta breweries,” Teasley said. “We contract-brewed with Liquid Nation, and they did a good chunk of our brewing.”

Sadly, when the pandemic hit, most of Khonso’s beer was in kegs, he said, so its on-premises accounts were shut down for a year and a half.

“The pickup from that has been very slow, and more recently we have been active in brewing collaborative beers,” he said. “We recently did one with Torched Hop in Midtown.”

Jim Koch is founder of Samuel Adams brewery and Jennifer Glanville Love is the company's director of partnerships and collaborations, and works on the Brewing the American Dream program. (Courtesy of the Boston Beer Co.)

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

Khonso has a contract-brewing relationship with Printer’s Ale in Carrollton, and is working on a deal with Three Taverns Imaginarium in Atlanta, with plans for the beer to be available for purchase locally in the coming months.

The brewery is ramping back up slowly, focusing on Standing Peachtree and a cream ale called Joyland that’s brewed with grits.

Looking ahead, Sweet Auburn IPA will be available this summer and a new stout called West End will be available in the fall, with distribution in Georgia from Liberator Distributing in Tucker.

“As a part of our relaunch, we’re going to be doing kegs and cans,” Teasley said. “We’re working with artist Drew Borders, and she is creating the artwork for our four core launch cans.”

But the biggest news is Khonso is building a brewery, with a kitchen that could be an incubator for startup restaurateurs.

As for Khonso’s Brewing the American Dream selection, Teasley said, “We’re really excited about participating in this opportunity, because it allows our message and story to be shared with more people. If we win, that would give us an increased amount of energy to find a location and get open. And collaborating on a beer that will be distributed in Georgia and Massachusetts would be the icing on the cake.”

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