I’ve been following brands, influencers and personalities on social media for years and have never seen a person or brand as supportive of fellow craft beer enthusiasts as Brandon Montgomery bka @BlackBeerTravelers. This guy is grindin’ like a selfless promo machine, built with the purpose of spotlighting other craft beer enthusiasts first and himself last. Some craft beer personalities and influencers spend their time on Instagram posting half naked pictures of themselves holding a beer; some fill their timeline or wall with post after post of highly sought after brews; some post beer hauls reaching ticket prices in the hundreds, and on rare occasions, the thousands; while some go to great lengths to capture unique or scenic beer photos—atop mountains or on exotic beaches—all for the purpose of bringing in a bevy of likes and comments to feed their social media ego while simultaneously building their brand. But, B. Mont seems to take a slightly more humble and interactive approach at branding and establishing a name for himself. That is because unlike so many IG’ers, he seems to genuinely enjoy highlighting the events, successes and joys of his peers, while humbly flexing aesthetically appealing brews in his beautiful Black Beer Travelers glassware. In doing so, he is rapidly etching out a name for his brand within the Instagram craft beer community.
Although his traveler’s account has been active for slightly over a month, the ripple effect of its presence has been felt since its inception. As he engages and promotes the community of his craft beer brothers and sisters, they reciprocate, allowing for a much larger portion of the craft beer IG community to take part in those conversations and experiences. So if the greatest adjunct of craft beer is collaboration, he is becoming one of the instrumental forces behind the black craft beer IG movement being a more shared and “dialed-in” experience. But just how is he impacting the community so heavily in such a short amount of time? I was fortunate enough to find out in my latest interview with the man himself. Some may know him as @Bmontrunstheglobe; @Across113thst might be more familiar to others; but right now it’s all about @BlackBeerTravelers. Check out the interview below and don’t be afraid to leave a comment in the comment section.
TA: My first question is not beer related at all, but because I live in the DC Metropolitan area I have to ask you, how was your experience at Howard University and what made you want to attend school there?
BBT: I completely loved my experience at Howard. It is because of my pre-collegiate and undergraduate experiences there, that I have become the person I am today. I attended a Math and Science summer program at Howard where I lived on campus for six weeks at a time between 2001 and 2003. At the end of each summer, I really saw how much I learned from being on my own and in an environment completely different from Marietta, GA. When it came to what college to attend after high school graduation, I looked at how much I grew while in DC and knew that four to five years in DC could show some amazing growth. So Howard was my first choice, and when I got a scholarship, I was sold. Also, I was pretty much guaranteed to attend an HBCU.
I only applied to four schools: Howard, North Carolina A&T, Morgan State and Tulane. Regarding my collegiate experience at Howard, I still marvel at what I was able to accomplish. I did everything you can generally think of: student organizations, student government, pledged my fraternity, picked up a minor, graduated with honors in electrical engineering, partied, volunteered at the local high school, had internships…the list goes on. My goal was to be the engineering student that was more than the stereotypical engineering student. It took a lot of time management, but it kept the experience fun. Through it all, I realized Howard is a mini country in itself. There are more types of black people within the diaspora than one can imagine. It’s pretty awesome to see and be a member of the congregation. You start to realize that being “Black enough” doesn’t carry as much weight on campus. It’s more about being confidently you, no matter how different, and I was very different.
TA: Your first post on your @Across113thst IG account from 6 years ago is of a German beer, but when and what was your introduction to craft beer and what were you drinking prior?
BBT: I remember my first post and that day. That was the day I saw Run DMC in Concert. (Sidenote: My introduction to craft beer was about a year and a half earlier.) I often think about my introduction to craft beer and actually recorded me talking about it years ago on my YouTube channel. It’s fairly cringe-worthy, but located here. In February of 2011, I took my very first international work trip to Japan. I think I was the only first timer on that trip, but I had some really cool coworkers then. My one coworker, Brian, was the one who introduced me to craft beer. He’s still a good friend of mine today. While we were in Japan, we had countless Belgian ales and other international classics. We visited the original Delirium Cafes in Tokyo, numerous Craft Beer Bars in Nagasaki and so many places in-between. After ten days of different craft beers, I never looked at a Heineken the same.
TA: As previously mentioned, I love the level of engagement and collaboration you display on your @BlackBeerTravelers account. What’s the story behind Black Beer Travelers, what was your motivation for starting the brand and what do you wish to gain from it?
BBT: The brand has a few beginnings. The first was after my first introduction to craft beer. After returning to the states, I made it my mission to share craft beer with anyone that had a limited view of what beer was, but especially Black people. From family members, fraternity brothers, friends and more, I was looking for ways to share this amazing thing I had been introduced to. I also wanted to change the view from the domestics that dominated the market. The second beginning was when the hashtag was created. In December 2014 I was planning for a two week trip throughout central Europe after spending three months in the UAE. In preparation for the trip I created the hashtags #BMontRunsTheGlobe and #BlackBeerTraveler to catalog and brand my travels. This was my first attempt at branding. One hashtag was specifically for me and the other open for anyone who considers themselves a #BlackBeerTraveler. I figured that eventually people would like the way it sounds and pick it up.
TA: In slightly over a month of existence I’ve seen tons of fairly popular craft beer enthusiasts and brands showing you love on many of your IG posts and on their own accounts. Why do you think the reception of Black Beer Travelers has been so positive and widespread?
BBT: The page is fairly young, but I’ve been showcasing my love for craft beer for seven plus years now. In that, I’ve met people across many avenues of craft beer and shown my desire to share it with anyone willing to take that first sip. So before the roll out, I had already developed a number of connections and support in my goals for @BlackBeerTravelers. Howard taught me the strength of a solid network and that it could help flush out ideas in situations just like this. Once the brand launched, it was on me to follow through and continue to display my authenticity for what I have already made my personal mission to do. People are more willing to support and respect someone when they are willing to put in the work.
TA: As someone who’s lived in Georgia, Texas, DC, NJ, Florida and now San Diego, where was your favorite place to live, why was it your favorite and who had the best beer?
BBT: At this stage in my life, I can easily say I really loved living in Orlando, Florida. The friends I made and the environment I formed while there was something great. If I had not been offered a promotion, international travel and relocation to San Diego, CA, I would probably still be there, living a different life. I originally thought about moving back after two years, but those ideas changed. If I had to make the decision just on beer, there’s no topping San Diego’s availability of good craft beer. I’ve found decent to great craft beer around the world. In San Diego, we have access to so many notable local breweries, so many California breweries and most of the larger names in every region. It’s hard not to find something good here. We don’t get everything though. Through trading, attending notable beer festivals and some random beer shares, I’ve had some superb beers that rarely hit the San Diego market.
TA: Where are some craft beer destinations you’d like to visit and why?
BBT: I’ve been a fan of BrewDog since I first watched the TV show in 2013. I haven’t made it to any locations in the UK but I did make it to BrewDog Barcelona in 2016. While there, I had Sink the Bismarck; a 41% [alcohol by volume] quadruple IPA. It drinks like a scotch and is something to say you’ve tried. I really want to make it to a few of their locations in the UK. Especially since I’ve only been to London once. Plus, Brew Dog just opened their new brewery and hotel in Columbus, OH. That’s something I want to see. Someone was also telling me about a Columbus Ale Trail too. I would probably do both on a trip there. I also want to get down to San Antonio to visit Weathered Souls Brewing Company. Marcus is really doing his thing down there and I want to support. I joined the Selective Membership for next year because I’m tired of watching everyone else enjoy such good quality while I’m in San Diego dropping #ISO in the instagram comments. Other than that, I have a few festivals I would enjoy like WakeFest (J. Wakefield Brewing) in Miami and FOBAB (Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer) in Chicago. Also, I like to plan my adventures around more than just beer. I enjoy running and experiencing different cultures. So, I normally try to blend all three. It helps that I’ve realized that craft beer tends to be a method to experience regional cultures.
TA: I’ve seen you link up with popular craft beer enthusiasts – like @BeerThugLife and @DopeandDank, to name a few – at various breweries in Cali. How’s the craft beer scene in San Diego and Cali as a whole? What breweries or bars do you like to hang out at or frequent?
BBT: The craft beer scene in SD and Cali is, pretty dope. From the people to the notable standout breweries of the west, the culture is fairly welcoming to those that express interest and share their knowledge. Because it’s been so welcoming, when you run into enthusiasts like @BeerThugLife and @DopeandDank, you’re able to chop it up like they’re regular people. Then you realize, they are regular people. They just also happen to have a social following that enjoys seeing their authenticity and truth of self. I have a lot of respect for those two brands. They’re really doing it. Back to beer talk. In my opinion, craft is king in Cali…especially in San Diego. You can see it throughout every sporting event, local establishment and/or your neighbor’s refrigerator. So you don’t always have to go to a brewery to get craft. I really enjoy gastropubs like @Projectbarandgrill, @NeighborhoodSD, and @CommonTheory. They have super welcoming staff and quality taps. I’m able to have a good array of styles and brewery choices. Regarding breweries, I frequent Thunderhawk Alements, the East Village location of Duck Foot Brewing Company, Abnormal Beer Company, Mikkeller SD (Little Italy and Miramar), and Pure Project. Each has a special thing that I really like about them, but they all have quality craft beer.
TA: I love the Black Beer Travelers glassware. Thanks again for sending me one by the way. What’s the story behind the glasses and where can people purchase them?
BBT: In the branding stage of #BlackBeerTraveler, I knew there needed to be an artifact that people were able to see, touch, and use before the brand could takeoff. Until 2018, there was only the hashtag that I would use for my travels. So, before I pushed anything publicly, I crafted and planned privately. I created a number of draft logos that I felt personified the idea of being Black, Craft Beer and Travel. With each draft, I asked various people for their thoughts and recommendations. After about two months, the logo was finalized and then I thought about what paraphernalia people normally see in craft beer. I decided I could afford to create a limited run of glassware, pins, and stickers for the initial push and figure out anything else as time goes on. When I find time to setup my e-commerce website, everyone will be able to purchase the items there. Right now, the best place to experience everything is on Instagram at @BlackBeerTravelers and through direct message or email.
TA: Most people have a preference when it comes to beer. Do you have a favorite style of beer? If so, what and why?
BBT: This question is always a funny one to ask because I have this theory that most people’s favorite anything is the item that first introduced them. Like, my favorite Ludacris album is Back for the First Time. Word of Mouf was easily better, but there’s something about the first time. With that said, my favorite style is the one I started with: Belgian strong ales. It’s rare you find US breweries doing this style often, but I’m consistently on the lookout for it. The last good one I had that wasn’t from Belgium was brewed for a gastropub in San Diego that no longer exists.
TA: Do you have a favorite brewery or breweries? If so, where and why?
BBT: I have favorite breweries for different reasons. Sometimes it could be the location, the brewery tour, special events, staff and/or particular style. With there being so many options in craft, I choose a brewery or beer based on whatever I’m feeling at a time. Cantillon has an awesome tour where you get to roam through the brewhouse independently and find the notable characteristics of the brewery using the supplied information guide. Firestone Walker has a dope International Festival in Paso Robles that is five (5) hours of great food and beer – all inclusive. Orpheus Brewing has some delicious wild fermentation beers that are truly Atlanta because the brewery is located next to Piedmont Park. I could keep the list going.
TA: This might be a difficult question to answer, but do you have a favorite beer? If so, what beer and why?
BBT: My favorite beer is Dogfish Head 120 Minute. When I first had it, the beer was a 16-18% Triple IPA that was smooth, boozy and slightly sweet on the tongue. Having that beer led to a night to remember that will not be talked about further in this interview. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to get a few bottles to cellar and have some hilarious days each year. I actually need to drink the vertical flight I have. Not alone though.
TA: Pumpkin beer season is upon us. Those styles tend to be pretty controversial and receive a lot of mixed reviews. Just out of curiosity, what is your view on pumpkin beers?
BBT: One year, I think I had over fourteen different pumpkin and yam beers from all over. In my opinion, they’re cool for the season and a good way to introduce new people to craft. People love pumpkin spice everything and because of it, they tend to like Pumking by Southern Tier. I don’t think I’ve heard a newcomer to craft ever say they disliked it. I prefer the Warlock by Southern Tier. The pumpkin imperial stout is more fun to me. Other than that, I don’t normally hop into the pumpkin and yam styles that hard. During this time, I’m more inclined to drink an OktoberFest-Marzen by Ayinger.
TA: You recently posted a chug video of a brut style double IPA. What do you think of that style of beer and do you think it could become a really popular fixture among craft breweries like sours or the New England style IPA/DIPA?
BBT: I’m enjoying the style right now. Truthfully, anything helps to clear out all the hazy IPAs. That movement was cool and I’ve had some really good ones, but “where’s the diversity in craft?!” So, this new brut phase is good. A number of them really do have qualities similar to champagne like bubble mouth feel and dryness on the palate. The one I chugged was the Kir Royale [Double Brut IPA] with Blackcurrant by Claremont Craft Ales and Track 7 Brewing. It was delicious. I’m definitely not chugging my next one.
TA: Considering we have so many black craft beer enthusiasts and more converting every day, what impact do you think black people will have on the craft beer industry over the next few years?
BBT: Probably more properly marketed beers with names inspired by black culture. Shade thrown at the culture vultures. But really, you’ll get more creative campaigns and beers from established brands. Instead of reaching only the generally white male craft population, they’ll start considering the interests of diverse individuals and how it can be related to their product. Also, you’ll see more small scale breweries/brands become notable because they represent an underrepresented group. If you tell me a black, brown, minority, or woman is behind a craft beer, I’m more inclined to search it out. It’s different. It becomes a prized experience. It’s why Fresh Fest was so successful. It’s why Dope and Dank’s collaboration with El Segundo Brewing Company was so successful. We want to see ourselves in the mix and are willing to pay to experience it.
TA: Where do you see Black Beer Travelers five years from now?
BBT: Five years from now, I see Black Beer Travelers being a brand of the people. It would be something people used to find experiences around the world while traveling. Just picture traveling through Beijing or Prague and you’re able to meet up with or follow the footsteps of another diverse person in the search of craft beer and adventure. In places where you would not expect to see much diversity, this would be so valuable. That’s my plan for the next five years. I want Black Beer Travelers to serve as a library of experiences had by individuals with open minds and a lust for learning more about the world.
TA: My last question is, what is the best way a fellow craft beer enthusiast – who is trying to create a brand or promote themselves and others on social media – can gain supporters of their brand or movement?
BBT: I don’t know what will work for everyone else, but from what I have accomplished thus far, I would say, be true to who you are and what inspires you. Once you find how you can display your authenticity, think about why others would want to support and represent the same. Be willing to put in the hard work and be open to criticism. Also, keep it fun. Even stress can be fun if it is for what you love.
Be sure to follow @BlackBeerTravelers on Instagram for more great pics of brews, great glassware, and insight on a variety of craft beer enthusiasts of color from all over the globe reveling in the libations they love.
Note: All images in this post were used with the consent of Brandon Montgomery from his @Across113thSt, @BmontrunstheGlobe and @BlackBeerTravelers Instagram accounts, respectfully.