HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Craft beers come in a plethora of styles, but when it comes to the brewers, we’re not seeing the same amount of diversity, which makes one brewery in New Jersey special.
Mint cookie beer, bacon maple beer, even Lucky Charms-flavored beer. All in the world of craft beers. But less than 1% of craft breweries are owned by African Americans. CBS2’s Steve Overmyer recently reached out to one that is.
“I don’t look at us as this is a Black-owned brewery … Your best friend brews, you drink his beer, and then he says, ‘Let’s open a brewery.’ You back him up,” said Herb Barr, co-owner of the Hackensack Brewing Company.
“So, do you have to almost be like a beer sommelier?” Overmyer asked.
“Or a beer drinker? You don’t have to be that. It helps,” Barr said.
Barr says they named themselves Hackensack because that’s where they’re from, and they’re proud of it.
“So, you hold that town’s name with a real sense of honor?” Overmyer asked.
“With pride. We all come from here,” Barr said.
Barr and longtime friend Mike Jones have found success celebrating diversity.
“This is a reflection of our community … Hackensack is a mixture of everybody,” Barr said.
He’s right. Hackensack is almost equal amounts white (27%), Black (24%), and Hispanic (38%), not to mention Asian (11%), making it one of the most diverse cities in the state.
“There is no color here. Right? The only color is in the beer. You’re getting a light beer or a dark beer, that’s it,” Barr said.
Historically, New Jersey is synonymous with beer. In fact, it’s believed America’s oldest brewery was started in New Jersey in the early 1600s. It’s a stark contrast to the state-of-the-art brewery that sits in a graffiti-filled backdrop, which is painted by local artists.
This company loves to celebrate Hackensack’s past. The walls of the bar even salute the town’s musical history.
“We’re leaving a museum of Hackensack to Hackensack,” Barr said.
“While it’s happening,” Jones said.
“While it’s happening, right? Like a real time, a real time museum,” Barr said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Barr and Jones have been able to pivot quickly, crafting new recipes, canning it themselves and delivering a special “Quarantine Edition” brew. It was such a symbol of ingenuity, the curator of the Smithsonian Institute reached out.
“The Smithsonian is basically collecting relics, so to speak, from that time, where, how did people respond to this pandemic? This game-alerting thing that happened?” Jones said. “And they used our cans as an example.”
They’re modern artifacts to be displayed in an exhibit to be seen generations from now.
“Yeah, it’s crazy! Salute! Let that sink in,” Barr and Jones said with a laugh.
It’s more than just a drink. What gives it value is the relationships formed around the beer. It’s a beverage that unites.
“Every can that we have says, ‘Peace, Love & Beer,'” Barr said. “In the end, what else is there? What else do you want? I want everybody to be at peace, love each other and have a beer. Let’s all just come together.”
The small craft brewing company has already produced one award-winning beer and now has 35 flavors.