Kansas City musician and craft brewer Kemet Coleman remembers the surprise he felt when he entered the beer business in 2013.
“Holy shit,” Coleman remembers, thinking, “I’m the only black person here. “
Eight years later, Coleman brought the city’s first black-owned brewery, Vine Street Brewing, to eastern Kansas City.
The rapper and jazz performer says he hasn’t always liked beer. He says his father drank mass-produced beer, but he tried it and hated it.
That changed when he discovered craft beer and the culture behind it while working for Boulevard Brewing Company on the customer service side.
It was there that Coleman learned that people in the African diaspora invented beer.
This story is what brought him and his partners, Woodie Bonds and Elliot Ivory, to the Jazz District. They will be settling there and plan to operate a seven-barrel operation by early 2022.
He will not reveal the location of his brewery yet, although he says it is a historic building that has seen the ups and downs of the neighborhood.
Coleman says he has tried starting a brewery three times, with little success.
“I was done. It’s just something that wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
But he kept going, experimenting with beers and styles while working at a pilot site at the site of one of his other projects.
“This one had to pretty much work and it worked,” he says. “And, you know, the stars really aligned for this one.”
Coleman hopes Vine Street Brewing will be a gathering place for the community as well as a place for music and craft beer.
“Breweries are places where the community can come together,” he says. “These are what urban planners like me call“ third spaces ”. “
Coleman says they’re going to start with the basics. They will feature five beers – nothing fancy – focusing on staples like lager, wheat, and IPA.
“We can’t wait to be more experimental, and we will, but right now we’re getting feedback on these basic styles that are must-haves for a lot of people,” he said.
Still, Coleman says he’s not really a brewer. He relies on his partners to guide the formulas and varieties they plan to concoct.
Woodie Bonds, says Coleman, has a wide range and a creative style. It will add ingredients that others will not use.
He says his other partner, Elliot Ivory, is more of a “straight line,” which means his styles are cohesive.
But beyond beer, Coleman wants to bring people together with music, cultural history, and brewing knowledge.
“I think the black community and other minority communities would honestly benefit from exposure to the industry,” he said. “I want this to be a safe place for everyone to come and enjoy beer.”