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A man wearing a beanie and holding a beer talks to another beanie-clad man and a woman in front of a shelf lined with beer mugs.
Rodney Hines talks to his staff at Métier Brewing Company, which is opening a new taproom in the Central District in March.
David Riddile/Eater Seattle

Seattle’s First Black-Owned Brewery Is Opening in the Central District

The opening is part of a revival of food, drink, and culture in the core of Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood

Métier Brewing Company co-founder Rodney Hines has called the historically Black Central District home for more than two decades, but there has never been a Black-owned brewery in the neighborhood — or anywhere in Seattle — until now. The Woodinville-based brewery is opening a new taproom at 2616 E Cherry Street sometime next month with a mission “to brew damn good beer and build a stronger community to inspire bigger dreams for all,” a goal which Hines says “addresses the lack of diversity in the industry, and [involves] who we’re partnering with.” Featuring Japanese okazu pan — fried dough balls with savory filling — from Umami Kushi, also a Black-owned business, the taproom will become Métier’s new flagship, but Hines hopes it will be much more: a gathering place that anchors and acknowledges the area’s diverse communities.

Hines has witnessed changing demographics in the Central District, a historically African American neighborhood with deep connection to the Civil Rights Movement that has lost many of its Black residents and businesses since the 1990s, and he worries new residents don’t know the story of the neighborhood. “I live a block away from Rev. McKinney Avenue and 19th, and I remember … the role he played for civil rights in Seattle,” Hines says. (Samuel B. McKinney helped launch Seattle’s first Black-owned bank and advocated for passage of the city’s first fair-housing act.) “I’m not certain people … have asked the question, ‘Who was Reverend McKinney?’” Hines says, “but elements of that history are all around, and I get excited about the return of Black businesses.”

Five people sit or stand in front of sign that reads “our mission is to brew damn good beer and build stronger community to inspire bigger dreams for all.”
Métier Brewing Company aims to diversify the craft beer industry with its hiring practice and a diversity-focused mentorship program.
David Riddile/Eater Seattle

Located on a tree-lined section of E Cherry Street, the new taproom will repurpose a 2,000-square-foot former auto garage and blacksmith studio into an airy 80-person space where sliding-glass doors open onto a heated outdoor patio for year-round use, designed to be “the friendly neighborhood front porch,” Hines says. It incorporates elements of the original taproom: the beer club membership; the ‘Beer It Forward’ wall, where customers can buy a beer for future visitors; and 12-16 taps of the robust beers the brewery is known for, such as the award-winning Coconut Porter and Belgian Golden Strong Ale, along with a range of barrel-aged beers.

Métier Brewing Company joins what Hines sees as a revival of arts, culture, food, and drink blossoming in the Central District’s core, led by underrepresented artists and entrepreneurs, including established Black-owned restaurants like Jackson’s Catfish Corner and Fat’s Chicken and Waffles. Communion, Chef Kristi Brown’s nationally recognized “Seattle soul” restaurant, located in the historic Liberty Bank Building whose 2019 renovation was meant to boost Black property ownership in the area, is named for the bank Rev. McKinney helped open. And new housing, business, and cultural spaces, like Africatown Plaza and Midtown Square, are both located in a several-block radius adored with murals honoring Black and Indigenous historical figures, including McKinney.

“It feels like we’re creating a fun, destination cultural center,” Hines says. With Standard Brewing’s tasting room nearby, he believes it could also become Seattle’s next brewery district.

A man wearing a beanie pours a golden-colored ale from a tap into a beer glass.
Rodney Hines says his hiring processes create a more diverse staff at his brewery.
David Riddile/Eater Seattle

The new taproom continues the company’s focus on partnerships that support people of color and women. Sales of the Coconut Porter, for example, go toward an internship program for aspiring brewing industry workers from these backgrounds. The team also conscripted Greene Home Redesign, a Black-and-veteran-owned company, for the renovation, and hired Conflare, a Black-owned creative studio, for rebranding. Liz Dunn — with whom Hines serves on the board of affordable-housing organization Community Roots Housing — found the space and developed the design with preservation in mind, retaining the original structure. Artists of color will provide the artwork on walls and beer cans, and the brewery will host live jazz events to honor the neighborhood’s legacy as a hotspot for a genre formed by Black musicians.

“When you walk into our [new taproom], you’ll feel the intention of celebrating diversity,” Hines says. “You’ll see artwork from folks of color. You’ll see our mission statement loud and clear. You’ll hear our music and see the artwork on our cans … and our team will be diverse.”

While many brewery owners cite a lack of diverse applicants as the reason for largely white, male staff, Hines believes inclusive recruiting practices must be part of breweries’ approaches. “If you continually do the same practice,” he says, “you’re going to get the same results.” His team is hiring taproom staff from a variety of backgrounds, rooted in the Central District, by reaching out to community organizations to share postings on job boards and getting help from customers who have offered to spread the word through their social media profiles. Managerial team members at both locations receive paid vacation and sick leave and a health insurance stipend and are eligible for membership equity interest.

The company also partnered with the University of Washington Foster School of Business and Reuben’s Brews to create the Mosaic State Brewers Collective, a diversity-focused craft beer mentorship program. While it’s not a direct pipeline for hiring, Hines says the program helps diversify the craft beer industry to make it more reflective of America, from brewers to bottle-shop owners and even kombucha makers. Métier Brewing Company is even working with the Mariners to revamp the old Pyramid Alehouse building in honor of Seattle’s former Negro League team.

A pretzel twist in a paper boat and two okazu pan (fried bread rolls) in plastic containers next to a glass of jet-black beer on a wooden table.
Umami Kushi, also a Black-owned business, will serve Japanese okazu pan and other snacks at Métier Brewing Company’s new Central District taproom.
David Riddile/Eater Seattle
A few oak casks with a mosaic of a bunch of circular shapes with red, orange, black, and grey tile.
A mosaic at Métier Brewing Company’s Woodinville taproom.
David Riddile/Eater Seattle

Meanwhile, Umami Kushi owner Harold Fields, who runs a food truck at the company’s Woodinville taproom, will serve okazu pan with fillings such as curry beef, jerk chicken, barbeque pork, collard curry, and the vegan yuzu lentils. Fields, who left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to train with Japanese chefs, will offer a wider menu in the new space, with snacks like chips and pickled items to accompany the okazu pans as well as beignets on weekend mornings.

But it all comes back to the beer, and Hines credits head brewer Michael Daly, lead brewer Garrett Schnieber, and general manager Dreux Dillingham for the varied tap list, which will include customer favorites such as the Horizon IPA and Grandma’s Hands, a seasonal Imperial Porter with blackstrap molasses. The business will also expand its quarterly barrel-aged subscription program with beers like the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Brandywine and a Belgian ale aged in rum barrels.

After some construction delays, Métier is targeting a mid-March opening, starting with events for friends, family, and neighbors before opening to the public.

“I want this to be a meeting place for locals and people from everywhere,” Hines says, “coming here because they find home with us.”