By Owen Ogletree / Photos courtesy of Hippin' Hops
What do funeral homes, a couple of popular North Carolina restaurants and Georgia's first African American-owned brick-and-mortar brewery all have in common? The answer is entrepreneur Clarence Boston and his wife Donnica. The couple is currently in the construction phase of Hippin' Hops Brewery & Oyster Bar in East Atlanta Village (EAV) at 1308 Glenwood Avenue SE inside the former Eastlake Pharmacy.
Clarence and Donnica sold their largest funeral home in Charlotte, moved to EAV and figured that the historic Atlanta neighborhood would be an ideal place to make their dream of owning a brewery come true. Clarence is a long-time, talented homebrewer whose fascination with craft beer was reinforced during visits to Oktoberfest in Germany and beer halls in the Czech Republic. "We also have a great deal of experience in working with brewery reps and picking craft beers for our restaurants in North Carolina," notes Clarence. "I really enjoy flavorful, classic beer styles, and we want to focus on these at Hippin' Hops. We'll open with IPAs, traditional ales and lagers, porters and stouts, with some trendy things thrown in for fun."
The Bostons considered opening their brewery in North Carolina but could never find a perfect location. Being an enthusiastic businessman, Clarence would often drive around various areas of Atlanta, scoping out available business spaces. "I saw the 'for rent' sign in the window of the old pharmacy building, and the vibe, location and reasonable rent seemed perfect for Hippin' Hops," he recalls.
The Bostons quickly realized that opening a brewery is an entirely different ballgame than starting up a restaurant. "My wife and I filled out all the applications and paperwork by ourselves," recalls Clarence. "This was our first time with brewery paperwork, and it was rigorous. The City of Atlanta wanted this brewery to happen, and they were helpful and made the process not too painful. Then we tackled parking agreements, architect contracts, blueprints and legal matters. It was a complex process that we approached a day at a time. It'll be a lot easier when we start planning our second brewery."
Being next door to Holy Taco and just across the street from Sabbath Brewing will make this block of EAV a hot destination for craft beer lovers and foodies. Both Hippin' Hops and Sabbath Brewing plan full openings around the same time this fall. Clarence is thrilled to have partnered with Sabbath Brewing in the purchase of a mobile canning line that can be rolled between the breweries to produce packaged beers for sale on-site and in retail marketplaces. Clarence notes, "The guys at Sabbath have been great to work with, and it will be handy to help each other out with technical issues and buying ingredients in bulk."
Hippin' Hops' tanks and equipment are now in-house and ready for installation. Taking delivery of the three-barrel brew system and five-barrel unitanks was a great day for Clarence that filled him with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Unitanks allow the brewer to efficiently carbonate beer in less than 24 hours, precisely monitor pressure and then perform a pressurized and closed transfer to a serving vessel, keg or canning machine that minimizes oxidation significantly.
Clarence wants delicious beer to be the star at Hippin' Hops. He plans on overseeing brewery operations but wants to hire a talented brewer who can create a wide range of technically accurate styles. Anyone wanting to apply for the brewing position should email Clarence.Boston@hotmail.com.
Hippin' Hops will be able to accommodate around 60 people outside and at the s-shaped bar and additional interior areas throughout the space. The Bostons are also planning a cozy rooftop patio. Wanting the place to fit in with the vibe of the EAV neighborhood, Clarence visualizes Hippin' Hops as a contemporary brewpub with funky art and old-school hip-hop music in the background. "I think it will be a groovy spot," he says. "For its size, I expect the place to be really busy. EAV is known for its hippie-like, rustic look, and we are sticking to that."
Hippin' Hops' kitchen will be led by Chef Jamarius "J" Banks, who came extraordinarily close to emerging victorious on the Food Network TV show Beat Bobby Flay. Jamarius has made his culinary mark on several popular restaurants in Atlanta - including The Optimist on Howell Mill Road. Seafood, raw oysters and amazing po'boys will be part of Jamarius' jam at Hippin' Hops.
Until the Bostons were informed by the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild; they had no idea that Hippin' Hops would be the state's first African American-owned, independent, in-house brewery. It's an honor that they are proud to possess. "We love diversity and want everyone to enjoy our beer and patronize our brewery," says Clarence. "Everyone matters to us. We have been a part of EAV before moving to North Carolina and even worked at a funeral home in the neighborhood. We love how this community has evolved and become such a vibrant part of Atlanta. Hippin' Hops is going to fit right in."