Originally published in The Equity Star monthly newsletter for our July edition. Sign up for our email list to get more stories, recipes, new announcements, and other fun things sent straight to your inbox!
Breweries, like many things, are unique. Every brewery and the team behind it has different reasons for its creation, why and how the team fell in love with beer, and for what purpose they sought to share their work with the world. While every story is unique, ours is definitely different than most. As we celebrate two years of Equity we think a look to the past is in order. So, what is the story of Equity Brewing?
Like all business owners know, the journey from conception to grand opening is long, tedious, insanely frustrating, and exorbitantly expensive. Most breweries start off in a garage somewhere -- their owners spending various amounts of time honing the skill of homebrewing and tweaking recipes until the desire or the demand for their product becomes strong enough that they break down and find a space, fill out the multitudes of paperwork, spend a bunch of cash, and set up the equipment to brew on a bigger scale. This is not quite the path that Equity followed. In fact, it was far from it. We still learned to brew at home, though in a kitchen and not a garage (perhaps that’s fitting in some way as the only brewery in our state started by an all-woman team). But the idea for Equity came before the brewing skill. In fact, it was on what you might call a whim. Equity’s founder (and my mother), Suzette Grillot, was searching for a new adventure right around the time of a relatively explosive career moment (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, you can google it). Her first business venture, with the help and contributions of many of her friends and colleagues, was publishing an academic magazine, by women, for women, called proF Magazine. proF eventually pivoted into The Third Space, a co-working safe space on campus corner. During that time The Third Space would host events, and one in particular – a painting and pint night – sparked the idea for Equity Brewing Co. What happened was this: a local brewery (Cross Timbers Brewing Co.) had donated a couple of cases of beer for The Third Space’s pint night, and Suzette went to pick them up at the, sadly, now defunct Brewer’s Union. When she arrived, she was immediately reminded of her occasional adventures in graduate school watching her best friend, my Uncle Chris, homebrew British ales in his kitchen. Before leaving the Brewer’s Union, she asked one of the men working there if there were any women-owned breweries in the state that she could support. No, he told her – there were not any all-women owned breweries, or, at that time, any breweries that had women brewers. She went out to the parking lot, called her then business partner, and told her what they were about to do: open a brewery. So, off to the brew shop she went, researching and studying and reading everything she could to make this dream a reality. Then, before our plans had barely gotten off the ground, something happened that took the whole world by surprise. The COVID-19 pandemic came along and swiftly thwarted any notion of continuing a small co-working space. The Third Space had to pivot. We applied for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and became an organization that serves as a fiscal sponsor for small nonprofits. The Third Space Foundation now helps support the amazing work of local organizations as they engage in racial justice education, violence intervention, and various other social programs. But the desire to create a physical, safe, community space that is welcoming and comfortable for all continued. In the stillness of lockdown, when the whole world was coddling sourdough starters, learning tiktok dances, watching Tiger King, and sewing masks for hospitals, we plugged away at learning about beer. “Beer school” we called it. For months we would brew a small batch of beer in my mother’s apartment kitchen, ferment it in a bedroom closet, bottle it by hand, and deliver it for free all around the metro area to whoever wanted to give our beer experiments a try. We wanted community, and community is what we got. Our following grew – so many people wanted to try our beer, and we did our best to provide. It was then time to look for a brewery space so we could expand our operation and make progress towards opening our doors. We decided to locate the brewery in Norman and we quickly found a beautiful spot that was available, with the help of former business associates. We also developed, with the leadership of Skye Latimer, an Equity Trust that included more than a dozen amazing people that represent various backgrounds and experiences. The Trust has been essential in keeping Equity on track and ensuring that our values remain at the forefront of all we do. By August 2020, we moved into what was to become our little taproom and started the long process of building out our comfy space. Shortly after that, our other two partners left the project, but my mom and I continued working towards our goal, picking up new skills, experimenting a lot, and mostly winging it. Fake it till you make it, as they say! And make it we did. On July 2, 2021 we officially opened our doors for the first time. The many long months of worry, fear, and uncertainty about opening were over and our new journey as brewery owners (with new, small business ownership worries, fears and uncertainties!) officially began. Slightly less than one year later, on June 1, 2022, we opened up the wall that separated our taproom from our previous neighbor’s space and started the long process (again!) of building and developing a kitchen concept. Joined by the remarkable Chef Yvonne, we officially opened the Equity Kitchen on May 5, 2023. Indeed, it has been a long road, stretching back to 2019 – and a road full of many obstacles, disappointments, adjustments, learning, and growth. But we wouldn’t change a thing (except, maybe, some of the obstacles and disappointments!)! We now have the most amazing team in place at Equity, an incredible group of Equity Trust advisors, and a number of valued supporters and partners – all of which were instrumental in getting us to where we are today. But of course, no story of Equity Brewing Company would be complete without the most important part: YOU. You have shaped Equity into what it has been these past two years, have kept us afloat and supported when we most needed it, and always brought joy into our space. For all of this and more, we are so thankful. It’s been our immense pleasure to drink and eat with you, get to know you, and serve you these past two years. We cannot wait for many more!