Inside Two Locals, Pennsylvania’s First Black-Owned Brewery in University City

Owners and Brothers Richard and Mengistu Koilor | Ernest Owens

An exclusive first-look inside the brewpub that’s already making history

A new brewery in University City is already making history as its doors open to the public.

Ernest Owens
Two Locals Brewery in University City

On Friday, January 26th, Two Locals Brewing Co. begins their soft launch at its brick-and-mortar location at uCity Square (3675 Market Street). The 6,000 square feet brewpub strives to provide a “cultural” experience and a “chill time out.” It is the first Black-owned brewery in Pennsylvania — a feat that owners/brothers Richard and Mengistu Koilor don’t take lightly.

Two Locals
Brothers Richard and Mengistu Koilor, owners of Two Locals Brewing Co.

“Although we love drinking beer and discovered a passion for making it, the lack of Black brewers and Black breweries is what really put us on our mission to open this brewery,” Richard Koilor says. “We want to be an example that even if you have a passion where you are the minority, you can carve out a path for yourself and do it on your terms and with your own flavor, style, and grace.”

Currently, Black brewers make up less than 1 percent of the total number of brewers in America according to the Brewers Association. In Pennsylvania, Two Locals is currently the only one of its kind, with Harris Family Brewery, of Harrisburg, currently in the process of being a potential second.

“We want to see more black brewers and black owned businesses in an area that is heavily gentrified,” Koilor adds. “Our city needs representation in a positive manner.”

The Koilor brothers, who grew up in West Philly, began exploring beer in 2016 when they were conducting home-brew kit experiments in their personal backyards and kitchens. During the racial uprisings of 2020, they grew to public prominence when a major connection from FCM Hospitality founder Avram Hornik led to them brewing out of Mainstay Independent Brewing in Northern Liberties. From there, the brothers explored various flavor profiles of their beer and expanded their marketing/branding outreach.

Today, the dynamic duo are operating in their own spot — one not too far from where they grew up.

“When picking a location, we wanted to make sure that we were in West Philly because that is our home,” Koilor says. “We picked our spot because our of our gracious landlord and the resources they had to help us open.”

Ernest Owens
The brewery at Two Locals.

The spacious brewpub is divided between their taproom and brewery. The Koilor brothers plan to invite diners to look at their live brewing process midday and sample brews in development. Here at their brewery, diners will learn stories behind their beers and what inspired the names of them. In their taproom, diners can expect a wide range of music and big TVs that are playing films and hit shows (unless a major sports game is on).

“We want our last call song at the bar to be ‘Before I Let Go’ by Maze ft. Frankie Beverly,” Koilor says, humorously. “I think that’s a perfect song to end your night on, especially in our space.”

For their soft launch, the duo teamed up with a few of their industry friends to produce some collaborative brews. However, diners can now try their independently-brewed Lofa Lager and Nubian Brown Ale on tap as well. They plan to start fully brewing next week so diners can be introduced to all of their beers in the taproom.

Ernest Owens
A variety of beers from Two Locals.

Food wise, they are partnering with local deli Liberty Kitchen, originally based in South Kensington and Fishtown by co-owners Matt Budenstein and P.J. Hopkins. At the Two Locals location, the Liberty Kitchens general manager is Zack Gangemi and chef de cuisine is Nick Messina.

Their standard menu, led by executive chef Beau Neidhardt, is a traditional mix of hoagies, salads, cheese/meat boards, and tomato pies, in addition to the Koilor brothers incorporating dishes that represent their Liberian and Jamaican roots (such as their Liberian beans, made with smoked turkey and chicken thighs, and their peanut braised eggplant, a vegan dish that includes eggplant, tomato, golden raisin, and scotch bonnet peppers), with various African soups on the menu throughout the year. They also intend to casually feature a local chef on Sundays when Liberty Kitchen isn’t operating at their brewpub.

Ernest Owens
The “Everthing” platter.

Ernest Owens
Tomato Pie Slice with white anchovy.

Ernest Owens

Ernest Owens
Liberian Beans and Peanut Braised Eggplant

Two Locals is now open starting today at 6 pm, with regular service on Sundays to Thursdays at 12 pm to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 12 pm to 12 am. Right now, there are no reservations as walk-in entry is encouraged. Diners can expect to be able to plan small and large parties in their space very soon.

  • January 26, 2024
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