Hippin’ Hops in Atlanta Leads the Way for Black-Owned Breweries

Clarence and Donnica Boston from Hippin’ Hops. | Photo by Ari Skin for Thrillist

Clarence and Donnica Boston from Hippin’ Hops. | Photo by Ari Skin for Thrillist

The scene at Hippin’ Hops— Georgia’s first black-owned brick-and-mortar brewery — feels a lot like a family getting ready for a barbecue.

An eclectic mix of ’80s rock, ’90s hip-hop and classic soul plays over the speakers in East Atlanta Village. Co-owner Clarence Boston checks one of his latest beers in the back for a boil, general manager Jermaine “Sweets” Abdullah shucks fresh oysters, head brewer Kevin Blodger perfects the carbonation of all the taps, chef executive Derricia Snow prepares for her famous lobster roll, and a trio of servers sets up the dining room and beer garden.

That’s been the vibe since the brewery opened in April 2021, attracting one of the most racially diverse clientele in the Georgian capital. This same crowd also frequents the second Hippin’ Hops, which opened last spring in nearby East Lake. The third and largest location, housing a 15-barrel brewery with 30-barrel fermenters, is two months away from opening in Stone Mountain, a suburb 30 minutes from Atlanta.

With all of this development, it’s clear that Boston and his wife and co-founder, Donnica, have proudly taken the reins, paving the way for black entrepreneurship in Georgia’s beer scene and setting the tone for the industry at the time. national scale. And that’s just the beginning.

The East Lake location of Hippin' Hops
The East Lake location of Hippin’ Hops. | Photo by Ari Skin for Thrillist

A native of Reidsville, North Carolina, Boston first created financial success as a mortar and co-owner of funeral homes. He also opened two restaurants and a cigar bar in the Charlotte area. Although all of his ventures were lucrative, there were still more aspirations in other industries that needed to be addressed.

“My grandma used to make her own wine and that was really inspirational,” Boston says. “But I’ve always been a beer lover, so I decided to get into home brewing when I was 22. It became a hobby for over 15 years until I decide to get serious and open my own brewery in Charlotte.”

In 2018, Boston and Donnica incorporated Hippin’ Hops Brewery in the state of North Carolina, but frustration with finding the perfect location for the concept led to a search elsewhere. They considered one of their favorite cities: Atlanta.

“I’ve always loved the eclectic, bohemian vibe of East Atlanta Village,” Boston says. “And then there it was, our take on the size and location of the first Hippin’ Hops was across the street from where I regularly grabbed a bite in the neighborhood. It made even more sense when I discovered that Georgia had never had a black-owned brick-and-mortar brewery. I was completely shocked. It was really a sign and I saw the green light.

Granted, there were other black breweries in town, including Bottom Homewhich has been distributing beer under contract since 2010. More recently, Grammy-nominated rap group Nappy Roots opened the doors to Atlanta Brewery in February 2022.

“More and more black brewers have seen what we’ve done and are using it as momentum to move forward with establishing their own craft breweries nationwide,” Boston says. “When we came into the game we seriously thought there was a lot more to it. That’s not the case and it’s time to change that.

Hippin' Hop Beers
Beers from the Hippin’ Hops portfolio. | Photo by Ari Skin for Thrillist

The figures of the Brewers Association are still alarming, reporting that black-owned breweries make up less than one percent of all craft breweries in the United States. In addition to the lack of exposure, product placement and previous work experience provided to black communities, Boston simply states: lack of funding and resources.

Luckily for the Bostons, their success in the funeral business—along with owning two real estate acquisition companies and three restaurants in Charlotte—helped them overcome those major hurdles and realize their ownership goals in the brewing world.

Currently, the brewery’s Baby Mama Drama tropical IPA, I Got The Keys Key Lime Pale Ale and So Peachy Peach Cobbler Sour successfully lead the beer portfolio. The company has also played a strategic role by launching two hard seltzers, leading beer collaborations with other black breweries, and launching a burgeoning lifestyle brand called Draft season.

Additionally, they decided that food would not play a background role, with Snow serving as executive chef at all three locations. The East Village spot offers New Orleans-themed seafood, including fresh oysters, po’boys, and alligator bites. The second in East Lake offers fine pub fare like cheesesteaks, fried fish and gouda mac and cheese. The third and largest Stone Mountain-based site, which is ironically a former funeral home, is set to open in an 11,000-square-foot property in August and feature a soul food menu.

“Many minority-owned businesses will soon be opening virtually on the same street as our third Hippin’ Hops,” Boston says. “We want to be an important part of this movement and this resurgence.”

Hippin' Hops Spirits
The brewery is also embarking on the world of spirits. | Photo by Ari Skin for Thrillist

And if establishing three locations in two years along with many other business ventures wasn’t enough, Boston gave the strong impression that it was just getting started. The spirits industry needs more representation of like-minded people, so this is the next step on its agenda.

“My plan for the future is to become a national brand of beer and dark spirits sold in all 50 states with much appreciation for my efforts that come along with the journey,” he says. “That way my people see it can be done.”

True to its word, Boston flew to France and Mexico to strike deals with a cognac and tequila distillery, respectively, which included import permits to legalize sales of what it produces there. foreigner in the United States. The results of his excursions tout a quintet of Distillery Bottled Hip Hop Spirits he is currently selling in North Carolina. With so much immediate success in his home country, the next step will be to sell his spirits in Georgia and beyond.

But for now, Boston is set to open its brewery in East Atlanta Village for the day. As soon as the neon “open” sign lights up, he pulls the tap handle of this new creation in a pint glass, the space program’s IPA, crowned with a perfect head. He takes a sip and gives a thumbs up, as does Mike Potter, owner of the Black beer culture lifestyle brand and Proximity brewing– Between. The two discuss plans for the World Beer Festival Blacktoberfestwhich will take place at the Stone Mountain site in October.

“This will be the first dark beer festival in the city’s history,” Boston proclaims. “But, of course, everyone is welcome.”

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Ale Sharpton is an award-winning Atlanta-based journalist, blogger, photographer and beer authority. follow him @realalesharpton.

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