Alcoholic beverages for most of their existence have acted as social equalizers. When people huddle around a campfire, belly up to a bar, toss some burgers on the grill, or sit on the front porch with a drink in their hand chances are the talk will flow and barriers may fall. When you share a drink with someone, as Barack Obama famously did several times during his presidency, you are signaling an acceptance to have a conversation.
Such is the hope of Marcus Baskerville, the founder and head brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing Company located in San Antonio, TX. As he watched the protests that swept across the country and world following the death of George Floyd, he knew that he wanted to help out in some way. “As a black man who in his youth who had experienced police harassment, I understood what was going on,” said Baskerville. “So, I decided to try and help open a constructive dialogue about race, something that seems harder than ever to find these days.”
So, he decided to do what he does best, make a beer that would hopefully bring people together. When his friend Jeff Stuffings, the owner of the award-winning Austin, TX, based Jester King Brewery found out about his plan to release a stout beer called Black is Beautiful, things changed. That’s because Stuffing’s challenged him to turn his project into a collaboration one that brewers across the world could take part in.
Suddenly his plan to get a message out became much larger. Following in the footsteps of two other hugely successful collaboration projects, Sierra Nevada’s Resilience IPA following the devastating California wildfires of 2018, and Other Half Brewing Co’s All Together IPA supporting hospitality professionals a few months back, Black is Beautiful is poised to sweep the country, and do some good.
A website was launched, and the message was put out. The response was immediate. Breweries started signing up (almost 600 so far), with fourteen in Colorado, pledging to donate proceeds from their beer to local foundations that support police brutality reform and the legal defenses of those that have been wronged. All would work off of the same base recipe, one that Baskerville had created, but they could add their own twists in. They all would also use the same label to ensure that the message about the beer was gotten out. There is a spot for them to put their own brewery name on the label.
“The brewing industry is one of the most open minded in America. Everyone is united in their love of good beer and even better conversations,” says Baskerville. “In the last few years the industry has led the way in working together to do good regardless of a person’s sex, race, or religion. It shows what we can be as a society if we just sit down and talk.”
If all goes well plans are in the works for this program to be a permanent one, something that rolls out annually to ensure that the message is still getting out there and that people can discuss it over the one thing that we all seem to agree on these days. That beer is good, and talk is better.