Kramer Deans

Kramer Deans, the Beerded Brotha, at Bearded Iris

Like many craft beer lovers, Kramer Deans discovered his passion during college. “I had a roommate in college at Belmont introduce me to Shock Top Belgian White, and I thought that was the mecca of beers,” he says. “When you meet that one person who says, ‘Let me show you something!’ That was like the floodgate I didn’t know I needed.”

After college, Deans continued his investigations. “About four years ago, I really started wanting to understand more about the nuances of beers,” he says. “I decided that this is the world I want to be a part of. And then meeting the people that are big craft beer fans, it’s a welcoming community, and they’re willing to educate you on anything you want to learn about.”

What he didn’t find among the craft beer community, though, were many people who looked like him. Deans is a young Black man. “There are a lot of people within that 99 percent white community that really are engaging and want to see diversity, and I appreciate that,” he says. “But there are a small minority of people who look like me and think like me and want to see this space expand.”

Deans picked up the challenge for himself and others.

“Most times, I have the most fun in spaces where it’s really diverse. I’ve always had a better experience with that, and we don’t see a community for us that’s that big. Being able to come into and create a space I want to be in and expand it by bringing people in to see what can be of this community when it’s truly diverse.”

To help accomplish this aim, Deans took on the persona of “The Beerded Brotha.” He started a website (thebeerdedbrotha.com) where he shares everything from podcasts and interviews to reviews of local beers and breweries. While everything on the site is viewed through the lens of the Black experience, Deans explicitly states that he doesn’t want to create a sense of “otherness” by focusing on that.

In his website’s manifesto, he explains: “I can talk about how I would be the only black face in a brewery, but we know that already. Most black beer drinkers understand this sentiment so I won’t repeat it. I do want to talk about another reason why I love craft beer. I feel accepted. I feel complete. I feel balanced. I am in a world of black beer drinkers that nerd out on the same things I do, BEER!”

Deans’ day gig is working in the cellar at Jackalope Brewing Co., a job that keeps him involved in basically every aspect of the operations besides the actual brewing process. “I was familiar with the space, and happened to be a fan of Jackalope,” Deans says. “I decided I wanted to work in the back and learn the science of the process.” He is currently studying to take his first-level Cicerone Certification exam — the beer equivalent of starting out in the Master Sommelier program.

While he educates himself, Deans also wants to share his knowledge with fellow Black beer fans and the companies that may or may not be marketing to them. As part of his gig as The Beerded Brotha, Deans hosts educational events in breweries and offers consulting services to companies that want to better understand the untapped market.

“Most people that I talk to about craft beer within the Black community don’t know much about it,” he says. “They might know about Blue Moon or Heineken, but a lot of us grew up with the brown-bag Mad Dog 20/20 and Coors Light. I feel like that’s because we’re not marketed to or taught about it the way we should be.

“Coors Light is the best beer they’ve ever tried, and they don’t even know about breweries that are literally right around the corner from them,” Deans continues. “They don’t know about TailGate’s Peanut Butter Stout or Southern Grist’s crazy beer list. If you like cranberries, you might like Firefox from Jackalope that has cranberries in it!”

Deans feels there is a definite market out there for the taking.

“I think there is space for focusing on Black craft beer drinkers,” he says. “You don’t really see beer reps out in Black-owned restaurants or at the African Street Festival. They’ll go to Brentwood or Franklin to do a tasting or to a primarily white beer festival. It’s important to be in that community and demonstrate a genuine effort to reach out to Black people in general. That’s one of the gaps between Black people and craft beer. If you want to expand your customer base, you just gotta do the work. The same amount of work you would do with any group you want to target for growth, you have to do with the Black community.”

In addition to his work at Jackalope, Deans serves as an MC for events, stages guided tastings, sells merch on his website and travels to breweries for podcast episodes. He has also worked with restaurants to help curate their beer lists and collaborated with Bearded Iris and Slim & Husky’s to create a special Cinnamon Roll Imperial Stout for Pennsylvania’s Black beer festival Barrel & Flow Fest.

For 2022, Deans plans to expand his efforts with food and beer pairing events — “sip ’n’ shops” where local artisans are paired with craft beers — as well as more educational events at breweries and collaborations with another local group named The Black Beer Experience.

The BBE is organized by Shani Glapion as a place for Black craft beer lovers and breweries to find each other. “Shani creates the experience where you can enjoy good beer and good people,” explains Deans. “I tend to concentrate more on education and conversation, but you can capture a lot of great people when you walk with them and hold their hand.”

The BBE also states on its website that it aims to create a space where “Black craft beer drinkers can come together to enjoy and explore beers in a safe and comfortable environment.” That concept of creating a safe space over and above just a community is important to Deans.

“A safe space implies that we understand where we all came from and can build on that,” he says. “We all have to be willing to come together without discomfort and be willing to learn from each other without judgment. The industry needs to demonstrate its commitment through genuine actions, by working with the groups on events and collaborations within the community you’re in. If they’re willing to make some sacrifices in terms of having those hard conversations, if they’re willing to maybe piss off a few customers by saying that Black Lives Matter, the rewards can be 10 times greater than what you’d get from the haters and the detractors of the world. That carries so much more weight for someone like me. You’re willing to go to battle, I’m going to support you! They can’t do it as a marketing ploy, because we can see that and know when it’s bullshit.”

Like what you read?


Click here to make a contribution to the Scene and support local journalism!