San Antonio’s Weathered Souls Brewing is leading this Black Lives Matter-inspired beer initiative.

By Mike Pomranz
June 04, 2020
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Courtesy of Weathered Souls Brewing Co.

The craft beer world has always been a tight-knit community, but over the past couple years, a new trend has emerged for brewers to support for each other and the different extended communities they represent: open source beers. In 2018, California’s Sierra Nevada offered a recipe, label artwork, and other support for any brewery interested in making its new Resilience IPA as long as they donated the proceeds to help those in need after the Camp Fire wildfires. Earlier this year, New York’s Other Half used the same idea for its All Together IPA to raise money for the hospitality industry while COVID-19 shut down restaurants and taprooms. Now, Texas’s Weathered Souls is adapting the concept for the Black Lives Matter movement with a new Black Is Beautiful stout.

“The Black is Beautiful Initiative is to bring a collaborative effort amongst the brewing community and its customers, in an attempt to bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily,” the brewery explains on the Black Is Beautiful website. “Our mission is to bridge the gap around for ages and provide a platform to show that the brewing community is an inclusive place for everyone of any color. We are asking for all breweries and brewers far and wide to raise a glass with us in unison and participate in this collaboration.”

The initiative also says they “would like a portion of the proceeds to go to your local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged,” encouraging everyone to “choose their own entity to donate to and spread the love as much as possible.” The brewery continues, “Weathered Souls will personally be giving part of our proceeds to the Know Your Rights Campaign. As much as we want this to be about raising money, the real issue is bringing education and information, which will bring forth change to a system that has fractured so many families and has been broken for decades.”

Craft beer itself has admitted as recently as last year that the industry is not as diverse as it could be. In 2018, the independent brewery trade group the Brewers Association (BA) created a Diversity Committee and named J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham as its first-ever Diversity Ambassador. Then, last August, for the first time, the group released brewery diversity data, and the numbers were quite clear: 88 percent of brewery owners surveyed were white; meanwhile, only 3.5 percent of non-production staff was black. Other recent estimates suggest the number of breweries in the U.S. (which, before the pandemic, totaled around 8,400) with black owners could be as low as 50.

The San Antonio-based Weathered Souls was co-founded by current head brewer Marcus Baskerville who, in discussing Black Is Beautiful, said that having “personally dealt with the abuse of power by the police, this recent turmoil the country is facing has hit home for me.”

“I was trying to think of a way to give my support as a black business owner,” Baskerville told the site Brewbound. “As a black brewer, how could I show my support for the current situation that’s going on without jeopardizing my business in any type of way, but also not jeopardizing myself as a black man either?”

Originally planned as a Weathered Souls-only release, Baskerville reportedly spoke with Jeffrey Stuffings, founder of fellow Texas brewery Jester King, and the larger Black Is Beautiful Initiative was born. As of this writing, some of the most acclaimed American breweries in the world have already jumped on board including Massachusetts’ Trillium, Florida’s J. Wakefield, and New York’s Other Half (which, as mentioned up top, knows how these things work). One of the country’s most prominent black-owned breweries, California’s Crown and Hops, is also reportedly participating. As of yesterday, 160 breweries were involved according to Brewbound.

As for the beer itself, the brewery explains, “We thought it [would] be appropriate to brew a stout, as it is in the name of the initiative, Black is beautiful.” The recipe states that the beer “was developed to highlight the different shades of black.” Weathered Souls is also asking everyone to stick with the same label—which they say “places the correct symbolism to the project.”

Breweries are still able to join the initiative: A request form can be found at blackisbeautiful.beer. It’s not clear when the beers will be released, but in theory, if they were brewed immediately, you could potentially see them rolling out as soon as later this month.

We’ve reached out to Weathered Souls for additional comment and will update this story.