Philadelphia’s first Black-owned brewery, Two Locals Brewing Co., will soon have a home base in the University City area. Despite their brews being sold in various bars, restaurants, bottle shops, and distributors throughout Philly and the surrounding 27 counties, owners Richard and Mengistu Koilor were previously unable to secure a space, which they surmised was due to the color of their skin. 

They have now signed the lease for a space on 37th and Market Streets, and are currently in the design phase. Located on the campus of Drexel University, the brewery and taproom is slated to open in August 2023. It is an exciting time for the city’s first Black brewery, which is proud to now have a home of its own.

"Representation matters, especially in this city where gentrification has been going on for a good while," Richard Koilor told EBONY. “You need Black businesses, and people from the city, to show others what is possible. I always saw my family drinking beer, but never did I think, growing up, that we could make it ourselves.”

Richard and Mengistu began home brewing in 2016 with a one-gallon kit they used to make an Irish Red Ale. They joined the Philadelphia Homebrew Club, where they learned more about the art of beer-making and met others in the industry. In 2018, they turned their hobby into a business, inspired by their love of beer and the process of creating it. 

Black-owned brewery
Image: Courtesy of Two Locals Brewing, Co.

“Once we saw the lack of Black-owned brewers and breweries, and found that there had never been one in Philly, we knew we were on the path that was planned for us all along. We started to do sampling and pop-ups, and were giving away free beer with the goal of getting feedback and helping people get to know our brand. The more the word got out, the more events we were invited to.” 

In 2020, the duo collaborated with Love City Brewing to create their version of the Black is Beautiful beer, originally created by Marcus Baskerville of San Antonio’s Weathered Souls Brewing. This was their first collaboration that was legally packaged and sold.

The brand’s popularity grew, leading to more successful partnerships with local breweries while gaining traction. Richard and Mengistu were soon approached by FCM Hospitality with a partnership proposal that helped get their beers in the market.

In 2021, Two Locals released its first branded beer Nubian, a brown ale, with a second— Prolific, an India pale ale soon thereafter. Its third variety—Who You Wit?, a Belgian wheat beer brewed with orange peel, lemon peel, and coriander—came later. The impressive figures from the sale of these beers helped the company garner more press and ultimately secure an investor. 

Through their establishment, Two Locals looks forward to launching a number of community initiatives that will have a positive impact on the lives of fellow Philadelphians.

“We plan to make a Black is Beautiful brew every year and donate proceeds to a cause in our community, whether it’s fighting gun violence or supporting a Boys and Girls Club, a school or hosting an event of our own that will go towards the community. We want to have an impact in any way we can in Philadelphia, and this brewery will allow us to do that.”

For those interested in getting into the brewing business, Richard recommends reading up on it to better understand the process and immersing yourself in the industry. 

"Join a local homebrew club. Walk into a brewery at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday or Wednesday and see if they’re open to talking to you or letting you hang around. Build those relationships," advises Richard. "My line is always open for anybody who wants help getting in the industry. We’ve done 12 collaborations now, all on different brewing systems. I think seeing those systems and understanding how each brewer has their own process has really given me a unique perspective on how I will run my brewery and brew my beer. My path to the brewing industry has been unconventional compared to others, but from my experience so far, it’s been proven to have been a great way for me to learn and be able to speak about brewing at a high level with others in the industry."