The Black is Beautiful Effect
by Emmanuel Bates
The year, 2020, has undoubtedly been a roller coaster for all of us. Though bars and restaurants are opening, coronavirus is still a factor in our everyday lives. Our new normal now adds a mask as a necessity along with our phone, wallet, and keys. We currently live in a time where our country’s divided on many social issues. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others before have led to protests of police violence around the world. With all the drama 2020 has brought into our lives, there still are many great things that brought people together like beer and the brewing of Marcus Baskerville’s Black is Beautiful.
Marcus Baskerville, the founder/head brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing in San Antonio, Texas, created the recipe for Black is Beautiful, a 10% ABV imperial stout that packs a rich, semi-sweet flavor with toasted, toffee-like notes and a solid dry finish. This beer represents so much more than just great taste, “the Black is Beautiful initiative is a call to all the craft breweries to participate, and the stout base that we created, and using that stout base, can get creative with as they want, but what this beer represents is equality, unison, and inclusion for people of color.” Marcus said in an interview with The Midwest Brew Review. All breweries that participate use the same label and the proceeds of the beer raises funds for local organizations that represent police reform or legal defenses for protesters.
Baskerville originally predicted that around 150-200 breweries would participate in the program, as of August 2020, 1,130 breweries across all 50 states participated in brewing Black is Beautiful. The reach of Black is Beautiful has gotten so broad that the brew is currently brewed across 21 different countries! One of the most intriguing breweries to join in was Founders Brewing in Michigan, who was under fire for a racially-motivated lawsuit last year.
A study conducted by the Brewer’s Association stated that Black People make up around 19.3% of the craft beer workforce. Baskerville wants the industry to be more inclusive, which would call for implementing programs to encourage people of color to work in the craft beer industry.
I happen to be lucky enough to work at a brewery that participated in the brewing of Black is Beautiful, and honestly, the message around the beer is as great as the beer itself. The fact that this recipe has brought together many different cultures shows that if you put two beers between people from two different walks of life, it’s possible to find common ground. Beer has been around for centuries and is only adapting to more and more cultures over time.
As a black man in the craft beer industry, you don’t see too many people who look like me brewing beer or have an interest in beer other than your standard domestics. It took me years to find something I was genuinely passionate about, and as it turns out, it also makes people happy! I didn’t grow up with anyone to show me anything about craft beer; in fact, my dad still likes his Coors light over any craft beers I’ve had him taste over the years, but he’s always open to trying. Any new recipe I brew, my dad is usually one of the first people to sample.
I would love to follow in the vision of Marcus Baskerville and encourage more people of color to get into the world of craft beer. The stereotype of the bearded white male in craft beer has been around long enough and needs to be changed. There’s no question that beer has impacted my life for the better. Growing up in the westside of Detroit, there wasn’t and still really isn’t much of a market for craft beer. When I got to high school, I moved to Canton, MI, a suburb of Detroit, and immediately noticed a cultural difference. I moved from a predominantly black neighborhood to a mostly white area, which ultimately turned me onto foods, music, and experiences I wouldn’t have known much about had I never moved; one of those experiences was my first craft beer.
My journey into beer started in my early 20’s with friends turning me on to different beers. Purchasing and tasting different styles of beer over the next few years prompted me to get into homebrewing and experimenting with what goes different styles of beer. Spending time figuring out things like the difference between lager from an ale or a stout from a porter, trying to get familiar with beer, and ultimately led me to take classes on evaluating beer and studying for the Cicerone exam. When I’m around my family and try to introduce them to some of my favorite craft beers, they usually stick to the buds and millers of the world because that’s what they know. I’m still holding out hope that my own family expands their palate, but for me, beer has taken me places and met people outside the norm of where I grew up.
Beer has opened a world for me to think outside the 9-to-5 cubicle life, leaving a comfortable desk job to pursue a challenging yet fun career in the beer industry. On top of homebrewing and my regular job, a friend and I started a craft beer and music podcast in September 2018 called “Beats, Brews, and Points of View”. On Beats, Brews, and Points of View, my co-host, Neil Richter, and I recap new music releases of the week, talk about current events in the world and interview guest artists, brewers, business owners, public figures, and people from all walks of life on the show. We also enjoy a different Michigan-based craft beer every episode.
In short, the world of craft beer is big enough to include more people of color. Black is Beautiful has brought important issues to the forefront of an industry that may have never thought twice about what’s going on outside the brewery walls. It’s a beautiful thing to know there are allies outside of my ethnicity and country who feel as strongly about this topic as I do. It’s a beautiful thing that beer brought this many people across 21 different countries together for a common goal, equality, and inclusion. Hopefully, the impact Black is Beautiful has had on the beer industry will not only shed light on the issue of police brutality and systematic racism in America but should also serve as a welcome to all people of color to get interested in the world of craft beer.
Sometimes, all it takes is that first sip.