Los Angeles-based Dope & Dank is launching a brand called Crowns & Hops.
Credit: Courtesy of BrewDog

Craft beer lacks diversity. For instance, it’s estimated that just 50 of America’s over 7,000 breweries are black-owned. Even the craft beer trade group the Brewers Association acknowledges the issue: Last week, the organization launched a new diversity and inclusion event grants program. But the Scottish craft beer giant BrewDog has decided to help tackle diversity more directly — teaming up with a black-owned craft beer lifestyle company to launch a new global craft beer brand focused on inclusivity.

Los Angeles-based Dope & Dank had already been making a name for itself in the craft beer world by “curating immersive experiences that bridge communities of color, culture, and craft beer,” as the brand explains. Imbibe Magazine even named founders Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter as “2018 Beer People of the Year.” But the duo has just gotten a much more lucrative offer: As part of its Development Fund, BrewDog is helping Ashburn and Hunter launch Crowns & Hops — a beer brand with a forthcoming brewpub in Inglewood, California, but also plans to be produced in both BrewDog’s Ohio production facility and its main brewery in Ellon, Scotland, for larger distribution in the U.S., U.K. and beyond.

Though both Ashburn and Hunter readily admit that their primary backgrounds were in promotions, owning a brewery has been at the front of their minds for quite some time. In the past year, each of them has spent time working in local Los Angeles breweries to learn the ropes, especially Hunter, who will be serving as Crowns & Hops head of beer. Still, though he’ll be actively involved in creating recipes, the plan is to bring in an outside brewer to make sure the beers the brewery makes meet their own exacting standards. “Brewing is an obsession,” Hunter told me. “We will absolutely allow for someone who has dedicated their lives to the brewing process to head up brewing.”

Though that position is not yet filled, Crown & Hops is already hoping to have beers available by this spring. The plan is to ready three “signature beers” — an IPA, a pilsner, and a stout — which “will be supported by a series of tasting experiences, events and festivals across the United States and the UK to give the public and investors first access to the beers,” as BrewDog explains. On top of that, Ashburn and Hunter will also be keeping busy doing the kinds of things that got them here in the first place, like hosting a TV show on The BrewDog Network that “will offer a behind-the-scenes look into the dope culture, taste and art in craft beer.”

Still, despite the action-packed schedule, Hunter insists that BrewDog has been “really hands off.” When Dope & Dank first met with Brewdog, “we all set the precedent that this would not be a BrewDog company,” he continued. “They simply want to give us the means to do what we want.”

Meanwhile, though BrewDog was founded by a couple of Scottish guys a long way from California, Ashburn said she thought the two groups shared common ground. “I think there are a lot of similarities in our philosophies in terms of really focusing on the community and really creating a voice,” she told me. “They made it very clear they don’t really want to interfere with anything that we’ve already established…. It doesn’t feel like something more than just support and infrastructure to allow us to create our brand the way we want to and the way our community appreciates.”