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Black History Month: Harlem Brewer Mixing Things Up In The Craft Beer Industry

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — February is Black History Month.

It's estimated African Americans own less than one percent of craft breweries in the U.S., but one Harlem woman is mixing things up in the beer industry.

From grain to the glass, Celeste Beatty is making hops, and history, in Harlem--while honoring her roots.

Nearly 20 years ago, she started the Harlem Brewing Company.

Harlem Brewing Company
(credit: CBS2)

"That comes with a lot of responsibility the way I see it because of the history here, because of this being the epicenter of African diaspora, African-American culture, music," Beatty tells CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

Her studio, which she calls a "brew-dio," is located just off the historic Convent Ave.

It boasts an original dress from the late Ella Fitzgerald, while the company's tap handle is a special nod to African American jazz greats like the late Duke Ellington of Harlem.

"It's so much more than what's in this glass. I just love this beverage. I had a chance to go to Africa to learn how original beers were made to really get deep into the origin of this product--this ancient beverage," Beatty said.

The North Carolina native followed the footsteps of family that moved to Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s. She originally wanted to mediate overseas political conflicts, but instead found she could bring people together at a different kind of table.

Eventually she ended up teaching beer making classes out of her own home.

"A friend of mine said you like cooking with all this stuff, why don't you make your own beer," Beatty explained.

Not only did she start brewing in Harlem, but each beer is a toast to the spirit and flavors of Harlem.

She described the brewery's flagship brand Harlem Sugarhill Golden Ale, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance this year.

She explained how Harlem 125th Street IPA is a celebration of one of the most iconic streets in the world."

She wants other black brewers, especially women, to join her in raising the bar.

"I was recently at beer festival, there were probably 25 black breweries there--and of those there were probably 4 or 5 women, black women brewers so it's not a lot."

Beatty says she's challenged when she has to repeatedly tell people what she does or whenever she gets rejected. But she says that only motivates her more.

She just opened a brewery with another black brewer Briana Brake in North Carolina.

Mixing things up in the billion dollar beer industry is only the beginning.

Beatty says she's still looking for a space in New York City, where she can brew and sell the beer outside of her home.

It's currently bottled upstate and sold in partner restaurants and select stores.

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