Ever heard of Sankofa Beer? With how large the DC brewing scene has gotten, it’s possible these brewers slipped through the cracks. However, just because they’re new and relatively small doesn’t mean their beer has failed to drum up interest. West African founders Amado Carsky and Kofi Meroe received almost $29,000 from a Kickstarter campaign last year, including donations from around the globe. Sankofa’s flagship Hypebiscus, a hibiscus pale ale, is now available in several DC locations. With two more beers on the way, On Tap decided to chat with Meroe about the pair’s unique influences, the international support they’ve received and what’s next for them.
On Tap: What West African influences did you draw from?
Kofi Meroe: The things we experimented with were cool and different and things we’d grown up with. We’ve done cola nuts, something that’s native to West Africa. [It’s] basically just a bigger nut with caffeine, so we’d use that to make porters and stouts. We used hibiscus because we wanted to experiment with that. Obviously, we’ve used spicy foods and peppers. We get these inspirations from our upbringings and it was easy for us, because it’s who we are. Sankofa is the Twi language of Ghana, and it means to go back and take. It’s not taboo to take your past to reinforce the future. You can’t have a strong future if you don’t know where you came from. For us embarking in this new industry, we wanted to be authentic.
OT: How did you get started in brewing?
KM: I relocated to DC after I graduated. I left college with a passion for exploring craft beer. I started homebrewing, thinking I could save some money as opposed to going to stores to buy six-packs. It just so happens that my business partner, who is also my cousin [Carsky], was living here as well. We were brewing a German hefeweizen and we loved that process, and the beer came out pretty good. Since then, we’ve been homebrewing together for eight years. We never really intended to have a company, but two years ago we decided to go for it.
OT: What spurred you toward turning your hobby into a business?
KM: Essentially, we thought our beer was really good, and we were finally starting to make relationships with brewers and people in the industry. We finally got to the place where we thought it was good enough to put out there. We tried to hedge our process by taking little steps. First was to establish the business, second was to share our beer to people who matter and getting feedback from professionals. For most of 2017, we took our homebrews on tour and found private events and folks who didn’t mind if we set up in the corner and did tastings. We created the hashtag #SankofaSummer, but that excitement that we generated led us to the next step, which was figuring out what we needed to start a business.
OT: Your next step was starting a Kickstarter campaign for your business. How did raising almost $29,000 change things for you and Amado?
KM: I had to ship a Kickstarter award to Denmark and other places I hadn’t been. At the end of the day, our friends really came through for us in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine. Even if they couldn’t give, they were spreading the word and they were very fervent about doing that. We had a lot of help in facilitating that campaign. It was also scary, because we raised this money and now we have to do something. We have to go out and do what we know we can do. We’re excited.
OT: Why do you think you were able to get so many donations from around the world? What about your product and background do you think resonates with so many beer drinkers?
KM: We have generated a following. There’s not a lot of people that look like us in beer who own craft beer brands. A lot of people get excited when they see us for that reason. And the beer, on top of that, is really good. We’ve gone to a lot of cultural events, and we’re always in places with cultural diversity, so we’re starting to build followings in these other communities. If anything, it’s an homage to the regions here – that someone in another state or country would pick our beer up.
OT: Where are you guys right now with the process?
KM: We just launched [at the end of June], and we’re still going through our first batch. We plan to brew in the next two to three weeks [late August]. What we do now is brew at Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. We wanted to find someone who could work with our culture, and the technical part just involved figuring out a recipe to work with their system.
For more information about future releases or to see the entire list of places Hypebiscus is currently available, visit www.sankofabeer.com.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Wild Hare Hard Cider at Herndon Labor Day Festival
Head to downtown Herndon for this annual Labor Day Festival featuring craft beers, great music, outstanding sponsors, delicious food vendors and lawn games. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Herndon Town Green: 777 Lynn St. Herndon, VA; www.wildharecider.com
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
Flow through a flight of brewery favorites during this hour-long power yoga class. Come for yoga, nama’stay for beer. Don’t forget to bring your own mat. Three-glass flights included in yoga class ticket purchase. This 21-plus class is suitable for yogis of all levels. 12-1 p.m. Tickets $15. Right Proper Brewing Company Brookland Production House + Tasting Room: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
Fairfax Beer Garden
With over 700 people in attendance at the first Fairfax Beer Garden, High Side is excited to host another round. The garden will feature a 10-tap beer trailer with an amazing lineup of brews. Try out unique Asian street food or check out what Coyote Grille’s “Roaming Coyote” food truck will be serving. Play games like life-sized Jenga, Connect Four and cornhole, and catch some football games via livestream. 12-8 p.m. Tickets $19-$23. High Side: 4009 Chain Bridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.fairfaxbeergarden.com
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
The Aslin Three-Year Anniversary Pre-Party
For those who can’t make the official anniversary party at Aslin, which will happen on September 15, come to ChurchKey on Thursday for an incredible lineup of out-of-market breweries to celebrate the third anniversary of Aslin Beer Company. ChurchKey will pour a slew of specialty beers from Aslin and friends, featuring hard-to-find kegs from nearly 15 different breweries. Highlights include Southern Grist, Dancing Gnome, Narrow Gauge, Deciduous and Resident Culture, with more to be announced. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC;
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
Fonta Flora Brewery Tap Takeover at ANXO
Fonta Flora Brewery in Morgantown, North Carolina was kind enough to send seven kegs of delicious farmhouse ales and lagers to ANXO Cidery for guests to try this month for a special event. The tasting starts at 5 p.m. along with the pintxo happy hour with pairings and flights, and continues all night until close. Don’t miss this opportunity to try some amazing beer from one of the best breweries in the country. 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com
Spontaneous: The Art of Natural Wine & Beer
Let The Sovereign introduce you to the incredible world of spontaneously fermented wine and beer by showcasing five natural wines side-by-side with five wild ales. The Sovereign proudly features a wide array of spontaneously fermented beers, from Belgian lambic to American wild ales, and a selection of natural wines from France, Italy and Austria. Don’t miss some fantastic avant-garde winemakers showcasing rarely seen varietals such as Negrette and Grauburgunder along with some American and Italian examples of spontaneously fermented ales. 5-11 p.m. Free to attend. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
Celebrate local beer, wine and music at Capital BrewFest. Each ticket includes your own tasting cup where you’ll get to sample more than 50 rare and seasonal beers from the region’s very best craft breweries, 30 wines including a ton of rosé varietals, and tons of cider and gluten-free options. There will be seven amazing food options available for purchase, plus live music all day on the mainstage and inside to keep the party going, and lots of fun outdoor games, activities and arts. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets $19.95-$59.95. The Fairgrounds: 1299 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com
End of Summer Beer Garden & Hoedown
Come celebrate the spring with a rooftop beer garden event at Up Top Acres. Standing on a roof at a farm, you will enjoy a memorable day of good beer, delicious food and live music. So bring your friends and come and enjoy an afternoon at the farm and drink and eat until the sun sets over the city. Each ticket grants entrance to the venue and unlimited samplings of four beer and food pairings. 4-7 p.m. Tickets $35-$45. The Farm at 55 M Street: 55 M St. SE, DC; www.uptopacres.com
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
Beer Dinner & Pairing Course
Would you call yourself a foodie? Or perhaps a connoisseur of the ales? Maybe both? Heritage Brewpub will be hosting a private five-course beer dinner, handcrafted by Executive Chef Josh Ber, and expertly paired with Heritage brews by Michael Smythe. Settle in for an evening of sensory experiences as you’re taken on a journey of seasonal dishes and handcrafted treats: a total of five expertly paired courses, each accompanying an ale that was chosen to accentuate and build upon the flavors of the dish. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $88. Heritage Brewpub & Roastery: 1300-1398 N. Fillmore St. Arlington, VA; www.heritagebrewing.com
Bell’s Beer Dinner
Zaytinya is thrilled to welcome back Bell’s Brewery for an evening of beer, food and conversation. Head Chef Michael Costa has created a unique five-course menu to pair with the brewery’s delicious array of award-winning and fan favorite brews. Space is limited so be sure to book a seat soon. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets $65. Zaytinya: 701 9th St. NW, DC; www.zaytinya.com
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Oktoberfest at The Republic
Republic is once again bringing the world-famous German beer festival from Munich to Woodbridge. Join them for great beer, delicious German-inspired food, traditional music, cool vendors, and fun in the tap room and outdoor biergarten. There will be a Märzen competition, featuring several locally brewed Oktoberfest lagers from the best regional breweries. Enjoy the beers and then determine which is the best – the people’s champion will take home the coveted Märzen Cup and bragging rights until next year. You’ll also get a handsome commemorative glass stein to help you remember the festival, just in case the beers make it hard to do that on your own. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets $5-$29.99. Brew Republic Bierwerks: 15201 Potomac Town Pl. Woodbridge, VA; www.brewrepublic.beer
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29
Crystal City Oktoberfest
Swing by Crystal City for Northern Virginia’s largest Oktoberfest celebration. Try over 100 craft beers from over 50 regional craft breweries. And food will be more than just sausages and pretzels: satisfy your hunger with a wide assortment of food trucks from New York-style pizza to tacos and more. Tickets include 10 4-oz. beer sampling tickets (you can purchase additional beer tickets once you’re there), entry into the festival and live entertainment. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tickets $15-$45. Crystal City Oktoberfest: 220 20th St. S, Crystal City, VA www.crystalcity.org
Celebrate Oktoberfest in style with a beer-fueled tour of Chinatown’s best venues. A different 12-oz. Oktoberfest beer at each and every venue is included in the ticket price. Start at the check-in location and then go on to five other great venues in any order and at any pace you choose. All guests receive specials on food pairings and $4 liquor pairings, and $4 specials on additional servings of the featured Oktoberfest beers. A portion of proceeds from this event will benefit local DC charities. Cheers! Check in from 12-3 p.m. Event is from 12-10 p.m. Tickets $50. Buffalo Billiards: 1330 19th St. NW, DC; www.buffalobilliardsdc.com