“One of the main things we saw during our research (before we launched) was the myth that African Americans didn’t consume craft beer because of the (higher) price points,” says Johnson, who befriended Patton when they both attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “We believed craft beer was never marketed appropriately to Black people, nor was it welcoming. We wanted to market to our niche, but we want to sell to everyone.”
That started with the can’s exterior, which holds a sense of pride for Moor’s team—an all-Black squad that includes Hammond, Ind.-based 18th Street Brewery, beverage distributor Kris Ross and creative director Ronald Hill. Each is emblazoned in gold and black with the central focus a reimagined image of Moorish King Caspar wearing a tilted crown and layers of gold chains.
“I’ve never seen a Black man on a beer can, so we wanted to do it. It was bold,” says Johnson. “The can is what attracts people and draws them in, and we seal the deal once they taste the beer and see what a quality product it is.”
Thus far, they’ve produced a session ale, IPA, and newly released imperial stout infused with lavender. All flavor profiles are finalized by resident sommelier Derek Stevenson, who works by day as a sommelier at 2-star Michelin restaurant Ever in Fulton Market District. Patton appreciates the wealth of knowledge that Stevenson brings to the table.
“He’s very dynamic,” says Patton about Stevenson. “He’s made sure that our taste profiles stand up to even the most discerning scrutiny.”
Patton credits his own sense of tenacity and fearlessness as secret weapons for impressive sales of the beer.
“I come from the Gordon Gekko school of closing people,” he explains. “I am willing to approach beverage directors, restaurateurs and general managers who typically aren’t accustomed to seeing someone like me. . . .I try to make sure I talk to 10 to 12 locations a day.”
That’s helped them exceed expectations, continues Patton. In the first 16 weeks of operation, they hit Chicago hard, resulting in getting Moor’s into almost 90 establishments around the Chicago area. That includes the likes of the Michelin-starred Next restaurant—where Patton once worked as a captain—as well as Four Seasons Chicago, Tavern on Rush, newcomer Esme, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe and several locations for Binny’s Beverage Depot. After year one, they plan to take Moor’s national.
“We have a strategy that will hopefully get us in the top 10 cities for the African American population in the United States,” asserts Patton. “We are also eyeing some export targets around the world, and we think that our imaging and messaging will resonate. This is a starting point for us to build a much larger beverage company.”
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