3 mins

Black is Beautiful

“Black is Beautiful” creator Marcus Baskerville felt he could not “just do nothing.”

This father of two young children is a successful independent brewer.
Founder and Head Brewer of the Weathered Souls Brewing Company of San Antonio, Texas, he is one of the few black brewers in the US.
The business has solid community recognition for its quality craft beer and has grown since its launch in 2016.

But following the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Marcus decided he needed to “do something” in response to the growing civil unrest and divisive politics he saw.
“I wanted for my children to look back 20 years from now and say that their Dad did something.”

Marcus decided to use his business’s platform to work for positive social change.
It was a big, untested idea.
And it ran counter to anything business schools teach about patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

Marcus Baskerville decided to take one of his secret recipes and openly share it with other brewers.
He named the beer “Black is Beautiful.”
It’s a black stout whose recipe offers the possibility to “showcase different shades of black.”

Three frosty aluminum beer cans on which are written the words "Black is Beautiful Imperial Stout 10% Alc/Vol". The cans are set against a black background.

Image credit: Josh Olalde/Unsplash

A collaborative effort

Competitors everywhere were free to copy his recipe and brew Black is Beautiful at no cost.
There were no royalties or licensing fees.
Brewers simply needed to visit his website, download his Imperial Stout recipe, and make it their own.
Weathered Souls even worked with a design agency to create a label with powerful imagery that allowed brewers to add their own logo.

In return, Marcus asked participating breweries to do three things.
He asked the breweries to agree to donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds “to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defense for those who have been wronged. ”
Secondly, they were to choose a local beneficiary that worked to support equality and inclusion.
Lastly, he asked the them to commit to the long-term work of equality.

The initiative was successful from the very start. Within 24 hours of launch, over 80 breweries had signed up to support the idea.

“As someone who has personally dealt with the abuse of power by the police,
this recent turmoil the country is facing has hit home for me…
I contemplate how the country can move forward, how we as the people can create change,
and what it will take for everyone to move forward
with a common respect for one another.”

Going Strong

The campaign is now in its second year.
1221 breweries in all 50 US states and 22 countries have brewed Black is Beautiful to date.
Weathered Souls reports that the campaign has so far raised $2.2 million (however, many participating breweries have not yet reported the extent of their donations).

Four unseen people sitting around a blue table, set against a lattice-work background. Only their four right hands are visible, each holding a full, frothy glass of beer, each beer a different color.

Image credit: Elevate/Unsplash

But as important as raising money, Weathered Souls is also leading an industry effort to raise awareness about systemic racial injustice.

Marcus explains, “breweries are not typically seen as inclusive places,” whether in terms of the workplace or in customers.
Authors Nathaniel Chapman and David Brunsma confirm this observation. Their 2020 book “Beer and Racism: How Beer Became White, Why It Matters and the Movements to Change It” examined how “beer in the United States has always been bound up with race, racism, and the construction of white institutions and identities.”

Consequently, as a result of its collaborative brewing experiment, Weathered Souls is, in fact working on many levels to “bridge a gap between the black community, people of color, and breweries.”

“For us, we feel that this is our contribution to a step.
Sometimes that’s all it takes for change.”

Looking ahead

Though the campaign has made significant strides during its first year, Weathered Souls acknowledges “there is still so much work to be done.”
“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.”

Looking forward, Marcus Baskerville is hoping that more breweries will brew Black is Beautiful.
He wants to “show the world that the brewing industry is the most inclusive place to work in the world.”

“We definitely have some work ahead of us,” he adds.

For more information

The Black Is Beautiful website is an excellent place to start.
It contains the beer recipe with links to all the breweries making it.

Furthermore, you can also catch up with the Weathered Souls Brewing Company on their website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Or listen to Marcus Baskerville:

Featured Image: “Black is Beautiful” courtesy of the Weathered Souls Brewing Company 

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