I needed to know what this brand was and what it meant to him. I wanted to explore his world and see how he got to where he is today. When I started my latest Instagram account I set out to spotlight people of color in the craft beer scene, but I didn’t know just how many of us there were in this space. From the culmination of pictures of his brewery visits, beer related clothing, and actual beer photos to his instastories of his participation in a weekly beer chugging competition among craft beer drinkers of color, Eric bka Uncap Everything is proving to be what the craft beer world needs. And he proved it to me even more with his message and his mentality during our candid conversation. Check it out below and find out why sometimes you have to Uncap Everything.
TA: When did you begin working at Akademia Brewing Company and what were your responsibilities there?
UE: Akademia was August 8th. I was their brewpub consultant. [I] lent my expertise in restaurant service, processes and procedures.
TA: And what did you do prior to put you in that position?
UE: I was Director of Restaurants for Marriott. [I] was with them for 8 years before I left. [I] managed 5 outlets. [I] worked at the W Atlanta Midtown and before that at the Ritz Carlton.
TA: So how did you get into the hospitality/food and beverage industry?
UE: Right after college I took on a catering manager position with Sodexo and worked that for a year. [I] got bored and wanted something more and moved to Nashville and initially took a serving position, which I only worked for 9 months and was promoted to a supervisor. After that, Assistant Restaurant Manager at Gaylord to Restaurant Manager at the Ritz Carlton in Georgia, then Director in ATL. Honestly, I got into hospitality out of necessity and was good at it, but, [it’s] not a passion of mine. My last job with Marriott…was out of necessity. It was a job.
TA: Wow man! Sounds like you’ve done a lot. But, if it’s not a passion, what is?
UE: Creating for a purpose—that’s what I love to do. I wasn’t really able to let that flow with my last job. Now I’m in a position to take a restaurant/brewpub and make it my own, create something totally new…and work closely with the chef and the staff for menus and events. Of course this is all centered around beer—obviously the silver lining in everything that I do.
TA: Speaking of things centering around beer, how did you become the General Manager of Champion Brewing Company in Richmond, Virginia?
UE: I shot my resume out to a dozen breweries in the Richmond area and they took it. I had a couple [of] options, but Champion stuck their neck out there for me, and I’m gonna make it rock! I’m able to freely dress how I feel, I’m a black dude in a majority white industry and I’m here to make a name for myself and the brewery.
TA: That’s what’s up man! But wait. Why did you specifically want to work in Richmond and why did you want to work at a brewery?
UE: I’m from Virginia originally. Lots of family here. So moving back to home was very important to me. I wanted a change of pace [from] corporate America and Marriott. I wanted some freedom to prove that my ideas and creativity were valuable and I knew I had a wealth of knowledge from the hospitality world to bring to a brewery. Besides, who doesn’t want to work around beer?!
TA: Touché! So this is a good segue into my next question. When did your craft beer journey begin?
UE: Wow. My beer journey began probably 7 years ago. My manager [at the restaurant in Nashville] took the team out to Yazoo Brewery in Nashville, Tennessee and I had a smoked porter. It tasted nothing like the beer that I had before and it set me on a journey of uncapping everything I saw. Before that, I wasn’t drinking much beer—the occasional Corona or Yuengling was my go to, but bourbon was my choice of drink. During my journey, I saw a lot of bourbon-barrel aged beers, so that turned me on to that style first.
TA: In my previous interview, I learned that @BlackBeerTravelers’ Brandon Montgomery was a Howard University grad. That got my wheels spinning and left me thinking, “I wonder where Eric attended school and if that had an effect on his beer life.” So, where did you go to college?
UE: I went to school in Kentucky at Berea College—a small liberal arts school that was [in] a dry county!!!
TA: Oh wow! So then when did you actually start drinking beer?
UE: Sometime in college, but I stayed on the liquor route.
TA: Gotcha! So what is uncap everything?
UE: Uncap Everything is me living out my story and encouraging everyone to do the same—finding the new experiences in life and enjoying [them].
TA: That’s what’s up man. How’d you come up with the logo design?
UE: The design reflects that ideology. First, I didn’t want anything that screamed, “Beer!” Like I said, UE is about experiences and life. It’s more than just beer. The U is representative of my focus on the people [who] brew, drink and serve the beer. And the dots coming from the U…represent the effervescence of beer.
TA: What is your goal with the brand?
UE: Here’s the mission statement:
“More than just a name, but a way of life. The mission of Uncap Everything is to convert the non-beer lovers into craft beer enthusiasts. We seek to educate and explore the world of craft beer by providing content that drives a heightened experience of the people that brew, serve and drink beer. We aim to share the effervescence of great beer, and life, to all those who are ready to broaden their horizons and let go of preconceived notions.”
TA: Powerful. I can dig it man! So where do you see your brand 5 years from now?
UE: Not sure man. I don’t know where I will be in 5 years. My focus now is on Champion and creating a solid brand and pushing this brewery to its potential. Q42018 and Q22019 I’ll really know. I didn’t start UE with a goal. Like I said, I just love to create. But, I do have some goals for the year that I want to complete: More videos, podcasts, getting into YouTube and things like that.
TA: You should do it man. I’d support. Are the shirts for sale? If so, where can folks purchase?
UE: I appreciate it fam!! I’m definitely on it. The shirts are getting a redesign for the winter, but [the] current shirt isn’t available right now.
TA: Have an expected release date for the winter?
UE: Not yet. [I’m] working on a design with my designer. It’ll be dope though! [I’m] keeping the classic logo with some winterized additions.
TA: So I’ve got to ask, do you have a favorite style of beer? If so, what style is it and what beer is it?
UE: Man, I’m going to go with my Belgian beers and Barrel Aged wild ales!! [They’re] so complex and full of character. I haven’t [had] enough Belgian beers to pick a [favorite Belgian] beer, but my favorite BA Wild Ale is going to come from Monday Night [Brewing’s] “Hello Beautiful.” And that’s exactly what I say when I pick up a glass of it.
TA: Lmao! Nice! Ok, last few questions. What do you think of the new school of rap (Lil’s and Young’s/Yung’s) versus the older school of rap (pre-mumble rap era)?
UE: If “new school” represents artists like Lil Yachty or Young Thug, y’all can keep it. I’d even throw Drake in the mix (awaits stones) because for “hip hop” it’s too watered down. I prefer to listen to music with content. Give me Big Krit, Wale, Mac Miller, or even dudes like Jaden Smith. That brother is musically AND lyrically there.
TA: Who’s your favorite music artist?
UE: Anytime I’m asked who my favorite artist is, Kanye is always thrown in the mix, but if I’m honest, his music lately, probably the last 5 years, has been trash. But you can’t deny the ingenuity of that guy. He’s put his influence on a lot of the major stars today.
TA: Definitely can’t deny that. Ok. Here’s an often controversial topic: What do you think about breweries who incorporate hip-hop references and images into their can art and beer names?
UE: I’ve seen a lot of breweries taking inspiration from hip-hop references, and for the most, I dig it. [But] let me say this, because of social media and the internet, sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a brewery is just capitalizing off of a specific culture.
Because breweries are majority white and hip-hop is majority black; it’s hard to tell if it’s being used. I’ve seen both cases. I’ve seen the internet rip up a local Georgia brewery because of their Rastafarian can design and the assumption that the design was only used to sell the beer. I ran into the brewer and asked him about it, and he, a white guy, was actually very deeply into the practice of Rastafarian[ism]. That’s really nobody’s business, but it makes a great point. I think some breweries are just capitalizing off Hip-Hop to sell a product and others are genuinely into it.
I will say, it’s f****** insane when I go to a brewery that has these Hip-Hop / Urban references, but I see no cultural representation in the workers or environment; something is suspect. Shit, how often do breweries even bring in an urban act for music?!?!
TA: So true man! I actually planned on calling out some of the offenders in a write-up at some point, but I haven’t made that happen just yet. But that s*** is rampant man. So many breweries exploit hip-hop culture, it’s crazy. So do you think there is some sort of resolution to the appropriation that many breweries do to hip-hop? If so, what?
UE: There’s a resolution for sure, but it makes itself known in two parts. Firstly, if there is no ongoing healthy relationship amongst the minority, whether in Brewing, packaging, managing, etc., said brewery needs to stop. Appropriation begins when relationships …[aren’t formed].
TA: Lastly, what is some advice you can give to someone who is considering starting their own brand, but doesn’t know where to begin?
UE: Be consistent and be professional. Whether you know shit or not, if the presentation of the brand is professional, you will be successful. I would also say, just do what you love to do. Just be you. There is no formula to who you are, so if you’re yourself, no one else can mimic it.
TA: Bam! Thanks so much man! I appreciate the conversation and I’m wishing you the best in your new role at Champion Brewing and with the Uncap Everything brand.
You can follow Eric via @UncapEverything on Instagram and Twitter for his beer adventures and the latest brand updates.