The first Black brewery in Philadelphia opens

The Brewers Association reports that Black people own 0.4% of the 9,500 breweries in the United States – and brothers Richard and Mengistu Koilor are now part of that number.

Two brothers’ efforts have resulted in the establishment of Philadelphia’s first Black-owned brewery.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Richard Koilor, 33, and Mengistu Koilor, 43, opened Two Locals Brewing Co. at uCity Square at 37th and Market Streets on Jan. 26.

The Brewers Association reports that Black people own 0.4% of the 9,500 breweries in the United States – and the Koilor brothers are now part of that number.

Black owned brewery Philadelphia
Two Philadelphia brothers have opened Two Locals, the city’s first Black-owned brewery. (Photo credit: Screenshot/ Philadelphia)

“The more that we saw that there was a lack of Black brewers and a lack of Black breweries,” said Mengistu Koilor, “that is what really pushed us to want to open up this space.”

Mengistu still works in financial services data management, while Richard Koilor, who was doing accounting for a tech company, is now at Two Locals full-time.

Less than four years ago, the Koilors collaborated with Harris Family Brewery and Double Eagle Malting on a beer named Black Is Beautiful, raising almost $9,000 for Black Lives Matter and putting them in the sights of beer lovers in the area.

They met Avram Hornik, owner of Craft Hall in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, where Mainstay Independent Brewing is located, in late 2020. The Koilors worked with brewer Brian O’Brien to establish the brand and brew out of Mainstay, creating Nubian, a brown ale with 5.7% ABV, and Prolific, a hazy IPA with 6.4% ABV.

According to the Inquirer, financing has been the Koilors’ most significant challenge.

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“It’s hard for anyone to raise capital,” said Mengistu Koilor. “And we already know that there’s a tremendous wealth gap in this country for people of color. You couple that with trying to start a business, and the odds are against you. It took a lot of work, a lot of trust and belief in ourselves, and some folks helping us out here and there.”

Their 15-barrel brewery in their new location will eventually dispense 12 varieties to supply their expansive taproom, which serves food from Liberty Kitchen.

P.J. Hopkins, co-owner of Liberty Kitchen, saw Two Locals listed in an alumni newsletter from St. Joseph’s Prep, the school where both he and Richard Koilor graduated.

Liberty Kitchen brought salads, boards, and tomato pie to its menu, along with its famous hoagies. The proprietors’ mother, Jurdina Koilor, collaborated with chef de cuisine Nick Messina and executive chef Beau Neidhardt on meals that included peanut-braised eggplant and a Liberian bean bowl topped with smoked turkey and chicken thighs, red beans, and Scotch bonnet peppers.

“We want to be able to show more Black people how to brew and how to get into the industry,” Richard Koilor told the Inquirer. “And we want to talk about our culture and tell our story through our beers.”

Two Locals Brewing Co. is open from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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