Southern Grist Brewing:
Weathered Souls’ Black Is Beautiful Campaign Shows Racial Solidarity In Craft Beer
Read in Forbes, here.
Marcus Baskerville, Co-Founder of Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas
Kenny Gould, Forbes Contributor
Like many around the United States, Weathered Souls Brewing Company’s Co-Founder Marcus Baskerville was having a tough week.
“I was dealing with some of the frustrations that were going on with murders,” he says. “Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. All of these situations that keep arising.”
As a Black business owner, Baskerville felt a responsibility to use his platform to promote justice. And yet, as a business frequented mostly by “white, middle-aged men,” Baskerville worried about alienating his fan base.
“You have to tread lightly, especially in the industry we’re in,” he says.
This week, Baskerville launched the Black Is Beautiful initiative, a project firmly at the intersection of these thoughts and emotions. It’s a strong move in the fight to raise awareness around injustice and a step toward bringing more diverse voices to an industry traditionally antagonistic toward minority populations.
What Is Black Is Beautiful?
Like Other Half’s “All Together” Project that mobilized craft brewers in support of a common goal, Black Is Beautiful highlights the need for equality and the injustice faced by people of color.
As part of the project, Baskerville worked with graphic designer Kevin Dyer to create a label for a beer can.
“It’s a general label that we created but a large portion of the label is left open for breweries to attach their own artwork to it,” says Baskerville.
Baskerville then posted an open-source beer recipe on the Black Is Beautiful website.
“We created a recipe for people to use as a stout base,” says Baskerville. “But they can get creative and put their own spins on it.”
Donations to a local justice organization are encouraged, but “that’s not the main focus,” Baskerville says. Weathered Souls has chosen to donate proceeds from their beer to Know Your Rights Camp, an organization started by Colin Kaepernick to educate and empower “the next generation of change leaders.”
How Did The Black Is Beautiful Project Get Started?
Initially, Weathered Souls planned to make a single beer. But after speaking with Jester King’s Jeff Stuffings at Jester King Brewery — one of craft beer’s most vocal supporters and a man Baskerville credits as “a mentor” — Baskerville turned his project into a collaborative effort.
“I’ve been a fan boy of Jeff’s for years, and it developed into a friendship,” says Baskerville. “He’s actually the one that got us to open a brewpub over a brewery. In every situation where I’m like, ‘I want to do this’, or ‘I want to be part of this,’ Jeff has been like, ‘Note to self — help Marcus.’”
With Stuffings’ support, Baskerville was able to promote the initiative and reach a relatively large group of craft brewers in a short amount of time.
Who’s Participating In Black Is Beautiful?
Less than twenty-four hours after announcing the Black Is Beautiful project, Baskerville had sign-on from over eighty breweries. Only twenty-four hours after that, the number sits at 226.
“There have been some great names getting involved,” Baskerville says. “Trillium, J. Wakefield, Perennial. Today we heard from Great Notion, WeldWerks, and Voodoo.”
While these name might not mean much to someone outside of the craft beer scene, each of the named breweries plays a powerful role in shaping craft beer culture. Their support goes a long way in encouraging the most avid consumers to take the project seriously.
Justin Gyorfi, founder of Ingenious Brewing and a frequent collaborator of Baskerville’s, noted he’s not surprised at the project’s success.
“Marcus’ passion about the project is contagious and I couldn’t imagine a brewery owner who read his message — and who had the means to participate — not wanting to be involved,” he says.
Ingenious, along with fellow independent Texas brewery and close Weathered Souls / Ingenious collaborator Turning Point Beer, are both participating in the project.
Now, even those who don’t know Baskerville personally want to get involved. Ignacio Montenegro, owner and Director of Marketing at Tripping Animals Brewing Co. in Doral, Florida, committed his brewery to participating after hearing about the initiative on social media.
“We didn’t think twice about it,” he said. “We don’t have a relationship with Weathered Souls just yet, but if we can use our platform to raise awareness in our community, we’re more than happy to do it.”
Diversity As The Future of Craft Beer
“As brewers and business owners, we bring another perspective that’s a little different,” says William Teasley, founder of Khonso Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia. “The best thing anyone can do to help is ensure we’re part of the conversation.”
While Weathered Souls’ initiative is a huge step toward a more equitable craft beer industry, the true test of the project’s success will be to see whether or not current industry leaders extend themselves to the BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) community.
As the editor of a craft beer magazine, I’ll be the first to say that our industry hasn’t been very good at this. While programs like Fresh Fest and Beers With(out) Beards provide spots of hope, major industry events (including ones that I’ve personally thrown) have left brewers who are African American out of the conversation.
Still, things are changing. Hopefully the Black Is Beautiful project will not only show solidarity, but convince industry leaders to extend themselves to more people of color in the industry.
“I remember when I started, there was maybe one or two other black-owned breweries,” says Chris Harris, owner of Black Frog Brewing in Holland, Ohio. “Now you’re looking at close to thirty or forty right now. The change is happening. Slowly but surely, it’s happening.”