Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) Program

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Blazing Trails with a Microbrewery

Black Frog Brewery

When Chris Harris received a Mr. Beer kit as a gift, he was excited to start a new hobby. He never imagined it would lead to him becoming an entrepreneur. Yet today the Toledo native is blazing a trail as one of the only African American brewers of craft beer in the country.

“Once I started making beer it became my passion,” explains Harris. “There’s an old adage that says time flies when you’re havingBlack Frog Brew Owner fun. That applies to me when I’m making beer. I just really, really love it.”

Working in his garage, Harris evolved from the Mr. Beer kit to better equipment. He experimented with different techniques and recipes, devising a honey malt that has become his secret ingredient. The rave reviews he received from family and friends made him wonder if he could sell his beer to the public.

In 2014, Harris took the leap, launching the Black Frog Brewery. He sells his craft beer at several locations in Toledo, including The Andersons, Churchill’s Market and Joseph’s Beverage Mart. His products include his bestseller, a cream ale called Cream of the Frog, and an India Pale Ale (IPA) called Flying Frog, created in honor of his father who served with the 180th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard.

“I am starting small because I don’t want to take out any loans,” says Harris. “But I have a great product and I’m doing well. I’m waiting for the right opportunity to come along so I can take it to a larger scale.”

Harris, who spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as a mechanic, works as a claims representative with the Social Security Administration. He runs Black Frog Brewery in his spare time. “Time is not my friend,” he says, with a laugh. “There are a lot of moving parts to running a business.

"Harris manages most aspects of the business himself, from production, to marketing, to sales. His wife, Diane, helps as time allows and she handles the accounting. The Northwest Ohio Minority Business Assistance Center has proved invaluable, even helping Harris write a business plan.

A strong market opportunity exists for micro-brewers, says Harris. He hopes the Black Frog Brewery opens doors. “I want to get more African Americans into the craft beer scene as consumers and brewers,” he says. “There’s a lot of great tasting beer out there, it’s time to broaden horizons.”

Last Updated: 6/30/19