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BY Abu Mubarik, 5:00pm November 28, 2023,

How three lifelong friends started the only Black-owned brewery that makes its beer in Chicago

Photo: Facebook/Funkytown Brewery

Meet Rich Bloomfield, Zack Day, and Greg Williams; they are the founders of a brewery in Chicago called Funkytown Brewery. The trio have been friends since 4th grade, grew up together, and are graduates of Grambling State University (Louisiana).

After university, the trio returned to Chicago together and later realized that they were the only Black people bringing craft beer to the baby showers, parties, backyard barbecues, and other events they attended.

“We noticed at all types of functions where there were women, Black people, and Hispanic people, we were the only guys bringing it around,” Bloomfield, who is Funkytown’s CEO, told PorchDrinking. “Friends would ask them questions about the beers they’d brought, and it gave the trio opportunities to explain their interest in craft to an audience that historically hadn’t been included in that scene.”

“We explained that stuff and were able to get this feedback and find beers that were palatable to these people,” Bloomfield recalled. “So it was just like, this is natural to us. If we start brewing beer, understanding these underserved communities’ palates, we can reach a whole different market and introduce a new community to craft beer.”

The trio started homebrewing together ahead of a plan to launch a brewery that serves black and other minority communities.

In 2021, the business partners opened Funkytown inside Pilot Project, a brewery incubator in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.

“We’re trying to get more Black folks, Brown folks, and women involved in craft beer, so we figured the best way to do that was to make more palatable and traditional styles that are low in bitterness,” said Day, director of brewing operations. “That way, people can find their own type of on-ramp into the craft beer game. We don’t want to turn them off with something that’s too bitter.”

Meanwhile, their beer has found success in the market. Funkytown beer can be found in Wisconsin and Indiana aside from Chicago. In 2022, they brewed 800 BBLs of beer and they are on pace to double that for this year. With Funkytown beer, the founders said they are determined to reach underserved potential craft fans. They also indicated that their business reflects their love for 90s hip-hop, and that is why they call it Funkytown Brewery.

In February, WLS reported that Funkytown is the only Black-owned brewery that actually makes its beer in Chicago. At the moment, less than 1% of the breweries across the country are Black-owned, the platform added.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 28, 2023


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