NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For Kim Harris, Harlem Hops is more than just a bar.
When she started the business alongside Stacey Lee and Kevin Bradford, she envisioned a cultural hub, where visitors from different backgrounds could connect over a shared passion for beer.READ MORE: New York City's Vaccine Mandate Could Impact Nets Season, As Irving Reportedly Not Getting Shot
Harlem Hops became the area’s first craft beer bar entirely owned by African Americans.
The rotating menu showcases a variety of rare and small-batch beers from local breweries—everything from a pilsner by Folksbier Brauerei in Brooklyn to an imperial stout from Four City Brewing Company out of Orange, New Jersey. At least one tap is reserved for a beer brewed by a person of color.
“We’re trying to create a community, a beer community, that’s inclusive of everyone and making people fully aware that beer is not limited to the white, bearded bros you’re used to seeing promoting it,” Harris said.
Wall art includes an inscription detailing the history of beer—the continent of Africa has the earliest recorded evidence of beermaking.
“That was a critical fun fact for me because I needed to understand my connection to beer from a deeper spiritual level,” Harris said.
Early beermakers were women, and African Americans have been influential in the industry since its inception. The inventor of the beer tap, Richard Spikes, was Black.
“Facts will help us as people of color and women and everybody else that’s largely disassociated from beer,” Harris said. “These people created this thing. It’s our product. Mass marketing prohibits us from realizing the true origins of things.”
For Harris, her native Harlem was always the ideal location for her business.READ MORE: Some Health Care Workers Still Defiant As New York State Vaccine Mandate Takes Effect
“I wanted to show other youth that I’m a girl from the projects of Harlem,” she said. “As long as you can dream, you can achieve it.”
Giving back to the community is central to Harlem Hops’s mission—their nonprofit organization Harlem Hopes provides scholarships to local residents pursuing a degree at a Historically Black College or University.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it was the love from this community that kept Harlem Hops going.
“We want to be here for them,” Harris said.
“What we hang our hat on is the bar aspect, but right when COVID hit, we were like, ‘I guess we’re a bottle shop. I’ll get my bike, helmet, and start making deliveries,'” Bradford said.
Since then, they’ve continued to adapt, adhering to safety protocol with new outdoor seating.
They hope Harlem Hops remains a destination for communion and education into the future.
“We want to provide something that is informative, so you can broaden your palate to different things and knowing that beer is not like what we’re used to beer being,” Harris said. “It’s something that everybody should learn about.”
2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd
New York, NY 10030
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