Nappy Roots has a lot brewing these days.
The Grammy-nominated hip-hop group has taken their successful formula in music and fermented a craft beer business that is really taking off.
The group has a podcast and is also pursuing a reality show that will take them across the nation meeting other craft beer lovers and brewers.
Last year, the group made its first dive into the lucrative and expanding craft beer business with the release of “Front Porch,” a pale ale, with Atlanta-based Monday Night Brewing.
Since then Nappy Roots has released “Watermelon, Chiquen and Gritz,” a golden ale with watermelon, which is named after the group’s 2002 hit album; and the “Humdinger,”
Related: The state of beer in Georgia
The group has named its new company Atlantucky, which blends its love of Atlanta and Kentucky.
“We started off in college partying and beer has always been part of our operations,” said Skinny DeVille, one of the co-founders . “When we did shows, we used to put it in the rider. In college, though, we were drinking the cheap stuff like Old Milwaukee and Budweiser.”
“It opened my eyes to another world out there,” he said. “Craft beer is a higher level of consciousness for beer.”
He started sampling other craft beers and hasn’t looked back. It was a learning curve, though.
They had to learn about mouth appeal, colors and aromas.
“We wanted to make it a southern beer and incorporate things that make Nappy Roots what we are.”
Eventually, DeVille and the other members of Nappy Roots hit on the idea of developing their own brand.
Indeed, the craft beer business is booming.
Andrew McMichael, associate dean of Western Kentucky University’s Potter College of Arts & Letters and a coordinator of the school’s brewing and distilling arts and sciences program, remembers getting a call from DeVille.
“I don’t usually get well-known hip-hop artists calling me out of the blue,” he said.
They wanted to know about brewing.
McMichael thought they might come by, perhaps make10 gallons of beer and call it day.
Instead, “I realized they were very skilled beer makers and knew quite a bit about craft beer,” he said. “It was actually a lot of fun. We had a real conversation about beer making.”
In 2017, craft beer represented $26 billion in revenue, according to Craftbeer.com, a newsletter of the Brewers Association.
Nationwide, there were also more than 6,000 operating breweries. Very few are African-American owned.
The market has changed as well as become more competitive.
Decades ago, a brewery could put a craft beer on the market and it would do pretty well. The bar, though, was lower.
In the last few years, however, the segment has become more competitive.
“You have to to be more skilled and make a better beer,” he said. “There’s no margin of error anymore and it’s not a cheap business to go into.”
Nappy Roots member Fish Scales wants to see expand the market for those drinking craft beer to more African Americans.
“You take a person who doesn’t like beer and take them to a brewery,” said Scales. “I guarantee they will find something they like. One of our main targets is to introduce the black community to craft beer. That relationship hasn’t happened yet but we want to build that bridge.”
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