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AZ Black-owned brewery looks to open craft beer to everyone

Posted at 6:39 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 20:39:06-05

PHOENIX — Tyler Smith is one of those people who always has a smile and a story.

He's the kind of guy you want to have a beer with.

And it's a good thing.

Because he really wants to have a beer with you. Not just any beer. His beer, from his brewery Kitsune Brewing Company.

Smith has been homebrewing during his spare time for the last 10 years.

And has turned a hobby into a new reality that he didn't see coming.

"Brewing wasn't on the list of career goals," he told ABC15. "But as the years went on-no matter what job I had or where I was at-I always found myself homebrewing."

Craft brewing is overwhelmingly predominantly white and male space. The fact is not lost for the Black community says, Smith.

"There's a very big misconception out there 'oh Black people don't like craft beer' well that's silly," he said. "Lumping up a whole group of people into one thing. I'm part of a ton of minority-based beer drinking groups across the country. Black people drink beer."

And he is proving Black people make beer too.

In March 2020 he decided it was time to turn his passion into something more. But first, he had to tell his wife he wanted to quit his corporate job to brew beer for a living.

"She goes 'you've got 2 years to figure this out,'" he said.

He'd spent some time brewing with the Black is Beautiful Beer collaborative which involved beer makers around the world brewing to raise funds to fight racial injustice. He wanted to do that again, but this time with a local brewery.

Smith contacted Simple Machine in north Phoenix, to see if they would be open to working with him.

"I felt Iike I hit send and he emailed me back immediately and he's like 'let's do it,'" Smith said of Simple Machine owner Marshall Norris.

Once they started brewing Smith said he couldn't believe what happened next.

"This man looked me in the eyes and said 'hey I have space in the back here if you want to start brewing here and getting your recipes together,' he's like I want to help you do that," Smith said.

From then on things started rolling.

"Our first commercial beer came out in October of 2020. So I spent about six months working with Marshall before my first beer actually launched," Smith said.

Now he's looking to turn that launch into a legacy.

Kitsune is believed to be the only Black-owned brewery in Arizona. It's not information that Smith markets but it is something that he wants people to talk about.

"I want you to ask me why does it matter that you're Black-owned? I say you know why? I say because there are certain people out there in this world that will literally not come to my brewery because I'm black. And that's ok," Smith told ABC15.

For Smith, Kitsune is about creating a space where people-regardless of race or gender-feel welcome to try something new.

"It was about signaling to people out there 'hey! come!' It's an invitation now. Some people just need to be invited," he said.

Soon Smith will be inviting people into his own taproom.

This summer Kitsune Brewing Company will move out of Simple Machine and into its own spot located at 32nd Street and Bell Road.

It's a process that's taught the beer maker how to become a businessman. Smith said he's received a lot of information from the Black Chamber of Commerce about funding, grants, and small business loans.

"It's bureaucratic. And there's a lot of steps, and there's a lot of things that don't make sense, and you're gonna make mistakes going through. But I would say you can't let those mistakes make you fall," he said.

Before the move, Smith canned his last batch of beer with the help of brewery owners from around the Valley.

They gathered at Simple Machine on a Tuesday morning in February to get his brew ready for Arizona Beer Week 2022.

"To me, that's the brewing community. It's just unreal."

Arizona Beer Week starts Friday, February 17 through February 27, Kitsune will be available at The Casual Pint in Phoenix.