When the doors to Harlem Hops opened in 2018, its mission was to bring incredible beers to an incredible neighborhood. Three years later, the gastropub and its owners have become a thriving part of Harlem’s restaurant renaissance, with their influence pouring far past the bar glasses and into the streets of the community around it.
After lamenting over the lack of locations uptown where beer lovers could enjoy high-quality, rare, innovative brews, partners Kim Harris, Stacey Lee, and Kevin Bradford turned their passion for pints and philanthropy into the first Black-owned craft beer bar in Harlem.
The bar’s name Harlem Hops serves as a clever double entendre. The streets of Harlem truly do hop with energy, music, and flavor, and situated in the heart of it all at 2268 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd., just a few blocks from the historic Apollo Theater, the unique taproom fits right in.
“Harlem creates the trends that everybody follows. That’s what I love the best about the culture of Harlem. Everyone is so creative and it’s a mixture of African American history, traditions, and life. It’s just a great place.” says Harris
From inception, the partners knew Harlem Hops would be more than just barstools, it was a space for us by us but where anyone was welcome and where everyone knows your name. Set in a sleek but inviting atmosphere with a menu of enticing ethnic bites and an array of specialty brews for the casual sipper to the craft connoisseur.
Like many things, beer brewing has its roots in African culture. By spotlighting local Black-owned beers like Harlem Brewing Company’s Celeste Beatty and Julian Riley’s Harlem Blue, Harlem Hops strives to keep this rarely mentioned Black history floating at the top of glasses and minds.
“We support all breweries but we try to work with small family-owned or Black-owned spirit companies like Montclair Brewery from New Jersey and La Fête du Rosé which is also founded by an HBCU graduate.” states Bradford
Tapping back into the community was a priority for the three HBCU alumnus and soon after opening they announced the release of a very special company brew. Not a beer but a Nonprofit, called Harlem Hopes, a nationally recognized 501c3 was established by the partners to provide scholarships to Harlem students with goals of attending a Historical Black College or University.
“We wanted to give back to the community that continues to support and give to us. We love HBCU and we really wanted to drive home for our young people to go where you’re celebrating, not where you’re tolerated. Giving them an opportunity to not only learn about HBCUs but to also obtain a scholarship to attend an HBCU of their choice was very important to us.” explains Lee.
In the two years since the Harlem Hopes began, eight Harlem graduates have been awarded scholarships to prominent HBCUs like Morehouse, Spellman, and Morgan State. One hundred percent of the proceeds from Harlem Hopes goes directly into the scholarship fund and through donations, fundraising, and partnerships with other Black-owned spirit businesses like Uncle Nearest Whiskey, they are excited to continue paying it forward in the years to come.
The Harlem Hopes scholarship application is open to any local graduating senior with a 2.7 GPA, but when selecting a recipient, one of the most important factors to the partners, especially Kim Harris a Harlem native herself, is the student’s desire to carry on the Harlem Hopes legacy by using their education to make an impact in Harlem and the world.
Over the past year, having the support of a community has become more crucial than ever before. As restaurants and bars all over America struggle to adapt to the current COVID-19 climate, Harlem Hops found ways to adjust and embrace the changes. They began offering bottle takeout and delivery within a 10-block radius of the bar, determined to keep providing quality craft beers in a time when people needed them the most. They attribute their ability to keep things flowing to the loyal family of lager lovers that continue to patronize them for pints and bites to go.
“At the heart, Harlem Hops is a bar but the coronavirus has transformed our business into a bottle shop or beer delivery and Harlem has been very supportive. We pride ourselves on getting the freshest, newest beers and our customers are accustomed to that and I’m so happy we have those people still coming by shop and support.” Kevin Bradford
Harlem Hops is looking forward to welcoming a smaller crowd of craft beer buddies back to their socially distanced bar stools for booze, bites, and beats on February 14th when New York resumes indoor dining at 25% capacity. The bar will be pouring cold drafts and serving hot Senegalese dishes with full COVID-19 safety precautions inside and outside in the bar’s heated backyard.
Those unable to hop on the A train are invited for a virtual visit, on HarlemHops.com. On the bar’s website, you can learn more about their rare brews, donate directly to Harlem Hopes and purchase gift cards and Doug Aldrich designed mugs and shirts. With a portion of all merchandise sales going into the Harlem Hopes scholarship fund, it’s a good reason to grab a glass and cheers to a great cause.
From blazing a trail for Black-owned beer bars in New York to investing in a new generation of HBCU hall of famers, the work they’ve done is worthy of a toast but the full impact of Harlem Hops and Hopes has only just begun to ferment.
“Right now we’re planning some cool collaborations with other brewers and working towards getting our own license so that we can brew. We want Harlem Hops to be recognized as a global brand one day.” says Kevin Bradford
With the enduring support of Harlem and Kim, Stacey, and Kevin’s dedication to cultivating the culture, the only thing pale on the horizon for Harlem Hops is one of their fresh and delicious draft ales.
This feature is part of our Brands Giving Back Series, where we’ll bring you all the latest news on brands that are giving back to the community, and how you can support by shopping online.
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