Brew Notes | East What's Brewing

Washington’s only black-owned brewery fighting for change

“Damn Good Beer” — that’s the motto of Woodinville’s Metier Brewing.

Métier is French for “one’s calling.”

And Rodney Hines has found his calling. Or rather, he’s found about 10 of them.

The co-founder of Métier Brewing in Woodinville, Hines has had to navigate a worldwide pandemic, plan ahead for his brewery’s reopening, find time to protest for civil liberties and, as his company’s mission statement says, “brew damn good” beer.

Hines, who is black, is the CEO of the first and — exhaustive research believes — only African-American owned brewery in Washington state. Long before protestors were marching in the streets, Hines was doing all he could to promote community and diversity for his company. From hiring black artists for labels, to understanding where his ingredients came from, inclusivity was paramount for Hines.

That feeling has only heightened in recent weeks.

“These days, I feel like I’m on the verge of crying every time I think about life,” Hines said. “It’s hard. I will say that I’m torn, in that I appreciate all the young voices who are out marching right now, and I feel like I am not fully doing my part if I’m not marching too. So I’ve actually gone out and participated in some of the demonstrations. And this sadness part is just feeling and seeing some of the same shit that’s been going on for our lives and our history. And I’m hoping that this current activism and the voices that are so diverse and yelling so loudly right now will help bring about the change that’s necessary.”

Rodney Hines (right) doesn’t shy away from political activism and protests and believes businesses have a resposibility to their communities: “I think the businesses should think about, ‘What are each of us doing that can help bring about the change that’s needed?’ ”

Hines chooses each word very carefully, just like the beers he puts on tap. Métier has seen an influx of new patrons and Hines is not blind to the fact that Métier’s standing as the only black-owned brewery in Washington may contribute to that. One of the company’s employees recently started a Kickstarter campaign to help the brewery recoup some expenses lost because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

With over a week to go in the campaign, it has already surpassed its $20,000 goal, with several unique experiences and swag items still available.

“A lot of new people are finding us and have been encouraged by social media and other places to come check us out,” Hines said. “It’s the majority of our customers. In some ways, that’s normal for us. We haven’t been open (a really long time). We’re about to celebrate two years. So it’s a lot of new people still finding us. A lot heard about us from somewhere. If they’re people of color, they’ve said, ‘We want to show some love for this business.’ I think that’s something that’s continued with these folks now who are finding us today. Now that they’ve found us, I hope they like the beer and come back.”

Hines does not shy away from the political activism and protests currently going on across the country. Along with joining rallies in the streets, he believes businesses have a responsibility to their communities. This is why he has hired black artists to design his labels, including one for Métier’s Trail Blazer Pale Ale, which features a drawing of Major Taylor, the first African-American World Champion cyclist.

A sign on the wall states Metier Brewing’s mission.

“I think the businesses should think about, ‘What are each of us doing that can help bring about the change that’s needed?’” Hines said. “… The organizations that we support, we’re really mindful and intentional about that. I’m hoping that there’s an integrity that is thread through everything that we do as a business.”

Like businesses, Hines believes individuals have a social responsibility right now. Hines looks at his phone and jokes that he’s scared to look at his credit card right now because he’s been out at local Woodinville-area restaurants and businesses at an exceptionally high rate. He believes that, “in so many honest, real ways the mom and pop shops, the restaurants, the tailor, everyone that’s in communities, there’s a beauty in the fabric of the community that’s developed because of small businesses. And I fear how the community changes when that changes.”

Hines isn’t sure how the next few months are going to go, both for his country and his brewery. But he sounds optimistic. He sounds hopeful. Hines goes out of his way, on several occasions, to thank those who are supporting him, and encourage everyone to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

“When I think about how can you help, I think broadly,” Hines says before trailing off. “I think what I ask of everyone right now is what I ask of myself, and that is if you look at what we’re facing in America right now, and I do the same, we each pause, we take a toll of what we see and we consider what we’re doing and are we complicit in what we see? And if we think we are, or not, we also ask the question, ‘What’s my privilege?’ Because we all have various levels of privilege, and it’s about how we’re using our privilege and agency to affect change. I ask that of individuals and businesses and organizations.”

Hines’ business is equality for all and “damn good beer.”

| Photos courtesy of Brian Hoorn.

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