Feb 21, 2023 - Business

Chicago brewery revisits Nashville roots to celebrate Black history

Blair Turner-Aikens and Steve Turner from Turner Haus.

Blair Turner-Aikens and Steve Turner from Turner Häus Brewery. Photo: courtesy of Steve Turner

Steve Turner's pathway into the craft beer business began a decade ago, when he gathered around the dining room table with his family members after his grandmother's funeral.

What he's saying: "I passed out this beer to everyone and they were like, 'Wow, this is pretty good. What beer is this?"

  • "I told them, 'Actually, I made that. It's my beer," Turner tells Axios, explaining how he had gotten obsessed with home brewing a month earlier and tried out his first batch. "They couldn't believe it."
  • While Turner was regaling his loved ones with the story about how he made the beer, his cousin Blair Turner-Aikens was taking fastidious notes. She called him a few days later to ask when they were going to get their beer business rolling. Turner was startled by the idea, but intrigued.
  • They decided early on to name their beers after the matriarchs of their family, with that first brew named Helen, after their grandmother.

Fast forward: After a long and winding road, 11 years later, Turner Häus Brewery is getting off the ground in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. The small brewery has been selling its products at retail for the last few years and is in the final stages of permit approval for its tasting room.

Driving the news: Turner Häus partnered with Nashville's Tennessee Brew Works this month to sell Gazelle, a hazy double IPA released in honor of Black History Month. The beer is an homage to Wilma Rudolph and all women athletes from historically Black colleges and universities, Turner says.

  • Partnering with Tennessee Brew Works represents a homecoming for Turner, a Nashville native who relocated to the Windy City a few years ago for a job at the University of Chicago.

Zoom out: Turner Häus is a rare Black-owned craft brewery in an industry that is almost exclusively white.

  • "From access to capital, to infrastructure, to connections in the industry — there are all sorts of barriers that have made it hard for people of color to get into the beer business," Turner tells Axios.

"I think it's important to see representation improve in the beer business, and it is special to do this release in my hometown, because Nashville will always have a special place in my heart," he says.


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