SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A friendship between Craig Bowers and Samuel Chawinga has been brewing for over two decades.
The California natives met in college at U.C. Berkeley but it wasn’t until a few years ago that they hatched a new idea over some pints: starting their own craft brewing company. “Beer is community. It’s a social drink. It’s bubbly,” Chawinga said. “It’s libacious so that’s what really attracted me to this new opportunity.”
Chawinga is a professional brewer with 13 years of experience and Bowers has extensive marketing and event production experience. Both noticed a trend in the craft brewing industry.
“What I had seen in the space was that it was very homogenous, very male-dominated, particularly amongst white males," Bowers said. "Craft brewing had a reputation as being upscale, not completely accessible. I just felt that there was a real opportunity to create something that targeted a different demographic.”
They plan to do that with the “South Los Angeles Beverage Company”, building a brand new 13,000-square-foot facility in South L.A., which is also home to Bowers.
“My parents were both born and raised in South Central Los Angeles and for me personally, you know, this is our love letter to Los Angeles, hoping that we can bring a different perspective to what South Central Los Angeles is, which for me has always been the working class heartbeat of L.A.,” said Bowers.
That meant intentionally choosing their brewery location south of the 10 freeway.
“We are here right off Central Avenue and in the 1920s and 30s, Central Avenue was the Black Harlem of the West Coast so there is a legacy of Central Avenue and its connection to the African-American community,” Bowers said. “We just felt like, here we are in 2020, 2021, continuing on with that legacy of what Central Avenue used to be and creating a new space in which we feel like we can really carry on that legacy of what really existed in the early 1900s, here in Los Angeles.”
In fact, their first beer pays homage to that mission. It’s called “Legacy,” and all the proceeds went back into the community. They purchased Chromebooks for underserved students in South Central L.A. and plan to do the same with proceeds from their next three beer releases.
The brewery, which opens next fall, will be located inside a brand new, state-of-the-art facility located inside a federal “opportunity zone”, which promotes investment in low-income areas. Bowers noted that they plan to hire at least 30 people, with 75% from the community.
“These are not minimum-wage jobs,” he said. “They are livable-wage jobs and really allowing people when they come and visit our location, like you are visiting the community because the community makes up the people that are working in and of the establishment itself.”
Chawinga explained that their facility will also have a tasting room, outdoor seating, food trucks, and a space for people to learn how to develop their own drinks.
“The people that work making beer don’t make a lot of money, and they do it because they are passionate about it,” he said. “They like the physical nature of it. They like the art aspect of it. The mix of science.”
One of the many reasons he and Bowers are excited to turn an idea that’s been brewing for four years into a bubbling new reality.