Beer is “Common Language”

New Spokane brewery plans to make the brewing industry more diverse, inclusive



Common Language Brewing Company is currently under construction and will open in downtown Spokane on February 14, 2022.


The Common Language Brewing Company started as a conversation between two friends trying to find a way to give back to the community.

The brewery is opening in downtown Spokane this spring, with the mission of supporting diversity and inclusion within the brewing industry.

Chief operating officer Sean Owens previously worked as a faculty member at the UC Davis Veterinary School of Medicine for 15 years. He then became an associate dean and oversaw the diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the Veterinary School of Medicine.

Owens said those programs were the spawning ground for really understanding the entry barriers for many different professions. 

“Veterinary medicine is one of the whitest professions out there,” he said. “There are not a lot of people of color in the profession.”

The brewing industry in America is overwhelmingly white men; however, it has not always been that way. About 6,000 years ago, women and people of color were the ones brewing beer, Owens said. However, in the past 150 years, it became perceived as a male profession.

Owens said he and his five business partners started the brewery to figure out how to create a vehicle to give back to the community and make great beer.

Dallas Hobbs is co-owner, co-founder and director of marketing and design for the Common Language Brewing Company. He said that he works on all things, from the design of the beer can to company merchandise.

In addition to Hobbs’s work-life, he balances playing for the WSU football team, while also being a graduate student finishing his master’s degree in business administration.

Hobbs said his head is always churning with different ideas he wants to create for the can design, merchandise and social media campaigns.

“I’m trying to incorporate poetry into the can design and have a whole bunch of stuff going on,” Hobbs said. “We’re going to kind of shake up the norms of the brewing industry.”

The name ‘Common Language Brewing’ comes from the idea that beer has been a common language for 8,000 years. Owens said that people have gathered around beer and talked about politics, religion, relationships and friendships.

“It really resonated with us,” Owens said. “The fact that common languages are what bring us together and we wanted to be part of something that was inclusive.” 

Their hope is to open the brewery on Valentine’s Day to connect to the idea that love is also a common language, he said. 

During the beginning stages of the project, they  hoped to open in Pullman. However, Owens said they could not find landlords that were willing to compromise with their budget.

Owens said that they eventually stepped foot into a wonderful location in downtown Spokane. Their 3,500-square-foot brewery space was once home to the Spokesman Daily Chronicle. 

“Despite the lack of linearity and going from point A to point B,” Owens said. “We’ve met not only our landlords but architects, contractors, tradespeople, electricians, plumbers and just great folks that have really seen what we’re trying to do.”

Owens wants people to know that when they go in and enjoy their beer, a significant percentage of the profits go back into the community.

Head brewer Alex Williams has been working in the brewing industry for over eight years. She moved to Spokane from a brewery she was working at in San Diego called Modern Times Beer to join The Common Language Brewing team.

Williams said that working in the brewing industry as a woman of color became increasingly hard for her at Modern Times Beer. She said that every day, she was surrounded by men who were largely oblivious to the things going on in the world because they did not have to worry about the things she worried about.

As a result of what was going on in 2020, with racial justice protests and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, Williams said that she was extremely overwhelmed.

“[It] was consuming my world where I couldn’t look away from my phone,” she said. “I couldn’t stop looking at the news; I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

She began to question if brewing beer was what she should be spending her time doing and was thinking about stepping back from the industry as a whole, she said.

Williams said that it was right around that time when Owens reached out to her and went through the bullet points of their vision for the brewery and the type of brewer they were looking for.

She was seeking social justice and equity, so the Common Language Brewing Company felt like a perfect fit, she said.

“[Williams] is really a mixed fermentation barrel specialist,” Owens said. “She can obviously brew anything, but she has an expertise and a reputation in the brewing community of excellence.”

Owens said that they are also working towards making their brewery a training and internship site for The Michael James Jackson Foundation.

The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling is a grant-making organization that funds scholarship awards to Black, Indigenous and people of color within the brewing and distilling trades.

“We want to provide students of the discipline with the requisite skills such that they can go somewhere and compete for jobs successfully because they have the understanding of the science behind brewing and how it functions,” Owens said.

He said that, in the future, they plan to work with other brewing companies in Spokane to carry out bigger philanthropic projects.

“One of the things I’m really looking forward to is working with the brewery community in Spokane,” Owens said. “If we aligned forces, we could really do some good stuff for the community.”