Up-and-coming brewer April Dove fondly recalls the day she met her now-business-partner David White at Munkle Brewing.
“I saw him come in, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s another Black person,’ ” Dove said. “I was in beer school at the time, and I was trying to figure out how to put what I was learning into practice. It was kind of history after that.”
Less than a year later, Dove and White are ready to debut their inaugural Tha CommUNITY beer, a 6.5% alcohol by volume American lager brewed in collaboration with Holy City Brewing (HCB). Dove and White, who both grew up in the Charleston area, said the beer is brewed to the palates of the people in their communities.
“It’s fine that you’re brewing all these beers, but that is not the taste buds of my culture,” said Dove, discussing the lack of Black representation in Charleston’s breweries, many of which are located in historically Black communities. “You need to brew something that they would want to drink.”
“[Tha CommUNITY is] going to be another option, and it will get more people in because most Black people don’t drink IPAs, they don’t drink saisons, they don’t drink sours. They drink the local $3.95 beers, but we can take those beers and put a spin on it and make it crafty and still reach their palates. Then you have something to give them a reason to come into your brewery.”
Dove, who works as a travel nurse, has been a beer enthusiast for years — she proudly states she’s visited 32 of the Lowcountry’s 36 breweries. With the end goal of opening a brewery and making the world of craft beer more inclusive, she enrolled in “beer school” in Middlebury, Vermont, completing the first portion of the course online before finishing a 12-week apprenticeship at Low Tide Brewing.
“I am a very education-focused person, so that’s why I went the school route because I knew it would take me a while to get to the point to be able to open a brewery,” explained Dove, who says she was the first Black female to work at Low Tide.
When he met Dove, White had been “meeting with Holy City about hiring more Black folks,” he said, so when they came up with the idea to brew their first beer, they knew the North Charleston brewery was the place they wanted to do it.
HCB head brewer Chris Brown made tank space for Tha CommUNITY brew’s 6-week lagering process to take place, and Dove and White got to work, completing a brew day July 29.
“This used to be Black-owned, Black-run. The Naval Shipyard left, and it left a lot of people without jobs and it became this destitute area,” said Dove, describing Holy City’s new North Charleston location. “But we’re building it back up, and I was like [to Brown], “You’re in the perfect community because you have Black people all around you. It is one of the most diversified in the 36 breweries that we have, but we can do more.’”
White, who grew up in downtown Charleston, says he’s tired of seeing Black people not represented in local breweries.
“All the breweries down here seem to be where Black folks grew up and are living,” he said. “There are so many here now I feel like we deserve a space because we like beer.”
Oct. 1, Dove and White will debut kegs and 50-55 cases of 16-ounce Tha CommUNITY cans designed by Alexandria Searles, the local artist behind the mural found at Edmund’s Oast downtown, which reads, “Until Black People Are Free No One Is.”
Dove and White hinted at a potential brewery of their own in 5-10 years, but for now, they’re searching for other breweries looking to collaborate with Tha CommUNITY.
“We don’t want to be temporary — we want to be something that’s long lasting,” White said.
“The goal is that other breweries will see this and be like, ‘I want to work with them,’” Dove said. “The goal is to get more breweries and wake them up.”
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