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Meet Richard And Mengistu Koile: The Brothers Behind Philadelphia's First Black-owned Brewery

The City of Brotherly Love is continuing to live up to its name.


Black-owned Brewery - Richard and Mengistu Koiler

Some brothers from Philly have collaborated and have started a new brewery company, according to NBC News. The pair of brothers, Richard and Mengistu Koiler, have added a historic brewery location to Philly known as Two Locals Brewing Co. It is a 6,000-square-foot brewpub right in the heart of the city’s expanding University City section, which is West Philadelphia.


It is Pennsylvania’s first known Black-owned craft brewery.


“It just meant a lot to us to be here,” Mengistu said. “This is where we grew up.


The brewery Two Locals was the culmination of a decade’s long arduous work.


How did this all start? Well, Mengistu, 43, and Richard, 33, started a backyard home brewery back in 2016. Mengistu spent several years on Wall Street in finance and Richard worked in accounting. But their love of stouts, lagers and ales turned from hobby-level to the notion of business.


“Full days, like 8 to 1 in the afternoon, you know, we’d be brewing beer,” Mengistu said. “Just gave away a lot of free beer, which helped, you know.”


Black-owned Brewery - Richard and Mengistu Koiler

Now in 2024 with years of experience in the business of brewery, Richard said he’s “always emotional,” and he is constantly fighting back tears while giving daily tours of the brewery.


What’s masterful about this situation is that according to the National Black Brewers Association, just 1% of craft breweries in the U.S. are Black-owned.


Frequenting the same white spaces with white counterparts in predominantly white schools is one thing. But working in business with distributors and contractors in a majority white space is a whole new ballgame, according to the brothers.


Still, by 2018, the bros built a limited liability company but still needed cash to get it up and running, so they turned to crowdfunding. But then the pandemic happened in 2020.


“We kind of looked at each other like, all right, well, this isn’t going to work,” Mengistu said. “You know, it’s a pandemic, and we’re here, we are asking people to donate.”


Just months later in 2020, the brothers joined with other participating breweries across the nation to raise funds for social justice organizations amid the protests that started following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia.


“Brewing beer, Mengistu said, is “about community, but you know, you also find movements that are near and dear to your heart.”

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