Tess Hart, co-founder and CEO of Triple Bottom Brewing. Hart recently started a supper club to celebrate the talents of diverse chefs, mostly women and BIPOC, and also collaborates with Project HOME and the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Tess Hart, co-founder and CEO of Triple Bottom Brewing. Hart recently started a supper club to celebrate the talents of diverse chefs, mostly women and BIPOC, and also collaborates with Project HOME and the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project.

A social justice plan with beer, people, and the planet

When Tess Hart decided to get an MBA, she was scared to tell her mom and dad, a social worker and a community organizer, respectively.

Community-mindedness was a through-line in Hart’s childhood in Haverford, and in her post-college years working in communications in Washington, D.C. But business school felt a bit like a left turn.

“'How do you do social impact and go to business school?'” she anticipated them asking. Her response would be that she would learn new skills, then apply them “with a mission in mind.”

That mission shows up in spades at her year-old brewery, Triple Bottom Brewing, in Philly’s industrial West Poplar neighborhood. Hart and her partners, husband Bill Popwell and brewer Kyle Carney, like to say it has three bottom lines: beer, people, planet.

Triple Bottom teamed up with Project HOME, Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, and Mural Arts' restorative justice program to make introductions to potential employees. About a third of the brewery’s original 15-person staff had either been incarcerated or experienced homelessness. Not long ago, one of them moved on to a new full-time job.

“And that was the goal,” Hart says. “It was less than a year, and now she’s in the mainstream economy on her own, doing what she wanted to do.”

The pandemic struck about six months into the brewery’s first year of operations, which put a crimp in its plans to serve as a community space. But it hasn’t stopped Hart from fulfilling her mission.

She launched the Joy Box, a care package filled with some of Philly’s best artisan-made foodstuffs. The brewery installed a community fridge outside to provide free food to its neighbors. And it launched a monthly supper club series that features women and BIPOC chefs, as well as guest speakers from local social justice organizations.

The brewery is also starting an Instagram Live series that will ask different activists and organizations to answer the question, “What’s the one thing you wish more people in Philly knew?”

The idea is a result of talking with the Triple Bottom team about what else they could be doing, Hart says. “We listened, and they said we could be telling more stories, so we’re gonna try.”