Although the coronavirus pandemic has taken back center stage in the news cycle (and rightfully so), the movement for racial justice in America continues on. There is a concerted effort in the craft beer community to promote and organize this movement among craft breweries centered around San Antonio, Texas, brewery Weathered Souls Brewing.
Weathered Souls launched a beer collaboration project called Black is Beautiful that seeks to support the efforts of organizations like Black Lives Matter and others with the same beer brewed around the U.S. They came up with the recipe for a stout and whoever wanted to be a part of this project would brew the beer at their brewery and donate 100% to a local charity that supports the movement for racial justice. There is a shared beer label and a shared goal though each brewery could pick how they wanted to take part in this project based on their local communities.
According to the website, there are currently 989 breweries in all 50 states and 19 countries that have volunteered to take part and lend their voice and their business to this movement. In Illinois, so far 26 breweries have signed on.
One the key factors of this column over the course of my time writing it has been that I only recommend beers that you can get locally and at the time the column runs. I have expanded what I mean by “local” over the years and I have expanded what I mean by able to get at the time the column runs as well. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to write about this craft beer project because I think is an essential part of the craft beer community to be just that, a community. The participating breweries have set a marker that they think this issue is important and to do something about it. I think this issue is important and my hope is that more breweries get involved as well.
Here’s what some of those Illinois breweries have to say about why they’re participating.
Elmhurst Brewing, Elmhurst
Cam Horn, head brewer: “As a former brewer from Texas, I heard about the BIB collab early on through their guild. We knew we wanted to contribute to a local cause that would help educate and empower parts of our community that has been historically disenfranchised, which is why we chose My Block, My Hood, My City and the Chicago Urban League for our donations. Our tweak on the beer, was to keep the recipe almost exactly the same, but lower the ABV to make it more patio friendly, since most of our guests are drinking it in the sun. At 5.6% ABV, it is a traditional American Stout, that is roasty and slightly dry, making it one the few traditional stouts that I have seen in a while.”
Kinslahger Brewing, Oak Park
Keith Huizinga, owner: “We’re participating in the Black is Beautiful project because it allows us to use the tools of our trade to join the fight for civil rights and racial justice.”
Metal Monkey Brewing, Romeoville
Dan Camp, co-owner: “Since we opened, we’ve promoted a fun safe environment for everyone, we have a large sign on the entrance stating that Hate Has No Home Here. When we heard about the Black Is Beautiful beer, it seemed right up our alley, so we reached out to Withered Souls to see if we could participate. We’re actually brewing the beer today. Everyone that’s made one of these beers has done it a little differently, so we’re going to be adding cocoa and cherries to our version. We’ll be donating profits from this beer to a local charity to help support the black community, we’ll be donating to CAAPA, the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (www.4caapa.org). Being very heavily inspired by music here at Metal Monkey, we thought it would be good to help promote the arts, especially as it pertains to African Americans, so this seemed like a perfect fit. We’re really excited to be a part of this nationwide collaboration and to help bring attention to causes on both the local and national levels, and enjoy some great beer along with it.”
Midwest Coast Brewing, Chicago
Cameron Compton, co-owner and head brewer: “We wanted to make a statement as a public showing of support that would last beyond summer. It is one of several actions we are taking to work towards bringing more diversity into the craft beer scene. We want everyone to feel comfortable in visiting our taproom and being part of our community. The two organizations we chose to donate the profits are local to Chicago (including one based in the neighborhood next to us), so we directly impact and become more involved with enacting change in our own city.”
More Brewing Company, Villa Park
Aaron Keefner, head brewer: “Simply put, we as a brewery feel that racially equality is of the utmost importance. Our owners, Sunny & Perry Patel, or Sachin and Purvish which are their legal names, immigrated here from India, and have at times in their life have endured inequality. Asking to be part of a collab such as this, was easily something we knew we wanted to do, and is something all our employees 100% back. We will be donating the proceeds from this release to Chicago Freedom School.”
Noon Whistle Brewing, Lombard
Mike Condon, co-founder: “We are proud to participate in this important initiative and will continue to look for more ways to do our small part in this larger movement.”
One Lake Brewing, Oak Park
“Our location at the corner of Lake Street and Austin Boulevard has brought us a thoughtful perspective and driven our excitement to participate in positive social change. We love our community and will be donating 100 percent of our beer’s proceeds to support My Block My Hood My City whose core values are interconnectivity, empathy, hope, and civic responsibility.”
Peckish Pig, Evanston
Jonathan Armour, head brewer: “I wanted to get involved because I’m sick of seeing my black friends, colleagues, and loved ones marginalized because of the color of their skin. While I recognize that a beer may not change the world, I feel compelled to utilize whatever small platform I have to help bring about social change.”
Revolution Brewing, Chicago
“We found out about this project online, via our social media, and thought it was a fantastic idea. The rare moment of pure positivity from Beer Twitter. A little later on, people started tagging the breweries they wanted to encourage to participate, so we had Rev fans in Chicago and elsewhere asking us to commit to the project. It was great to see such support for the project before it ever hit the tanks. As for why we thought it was important — Marcus and the Weathered Souls team took a look around at a very upsetting, infuriating, and scary situation for our nation and pulled together a project to stand together and support our communities. And we are proud to be one voice among a chorus of them demanding change. The protests here in Chicago weren’t a situation we were watching on the news or following online from our homes — our Rev teammates, friends, neighbors, and family members were out there protesting. Social justice is vital to any community’s long-term well-being. ... 100% of the proceeds from this beer will go to My Block, My Hood, My City. They’ve always done amazing work, especially for young people in communities on the South and West Sides, but have taken it to another level lately with their small business grants and senior wellness checks.”