Meet Chaz Hubbard and Mario Benjamin. They are the founders of the first black brewery in Oakland. The duo started Hella Coastal after competing with each other to see who could make the best homemade brew.
Impressed with the output, the two decided that it would be best to start their own brewery together. In addition, they always had an entrepreneurial spirit between them.
“One day, we were brewing together, home-brewing, and kind of brainstorming, like, well, we’re doing this right here,” Chaz Hubbard said to PBS News Hour. “We’re making beer. It’s fun. It’s enjoyable. We love the craft. Like, why don’t we try to start a brewery together?”
The entrepreneurs are venturing into a space where over 90 percent of the players are reportedly white people. Nonetheless, they observed that some of the breweries in operation do not have the right energy. Grain, hops, water, and yeast are some of the ingredients they use to make their beer, just like other breweries. But what makes their beer unique are the timing, temperature, and fine details, according to PBS News Hour.
What is more, the two recognize their Oakland roots every step of the way in their brewery journey. They represent their community in flavor, name, and design. Their latest product, Oakland Haze, is a shout-out to the Oakland A’s, their hometown baseball team.
They also did one celebrating Black History Month and Women’s Appreciation Month. They named it 3900 ‘Til Infinity’ and it honors Black female brewers who have been part of the brewery process for centuries.
“It was 3900 B.C. in Mesopotamia where the first beer recipe is supposed to be conceived by a Black woman, just kind of to knock down those barriers of folks thinking that it’s just like German and European,” Hubbard explained.
“And we want to make sure that people know the real history of it. It’s not just about Black History Month and beer, but it’s also like, yo, like, we do this, we have been doing this, we’re going to continue doing it.”
The business duo said beyond being the first to start a black-owned brewery in Oakland, they are looking into the future. They want to build generational wealth for their kids and equity for other Black business owners.
For now, they are renting space in a taproom downtown and are hoping to open a brick-and-mortar location soon. “And one thing that we want to do in our space is to not only make it inclusive, but we also want to make it a place where people can come in, learn about beer, have different beer styles, but, at the same time, have guest speakers, have artists, have art on the wall that’s representing the community and highlight organizations, nonprofits, initiatives that’s really resonating to — not only to us but just to the community in general,” Benjamin added.
Meanwhile, the two got positive reviews at Sonoma County’s craft beer festival, where they served largely to white clientele with white brewers.