Marcus Baskerville  Nearly 1,200 Breweries are now serving a Black is Beautiful imperial stout with the proceeds benefiting Social Justice groups.
Weathered Souls Brewing, Brian Ledden

Nearly 1,200 Breweries are now serving a Black is Beautiful imperial stout with the proceeds benefiting Social Justice groups.

For Brewer Marcus Baskerville, Social Justice Is On Tap

Since he founded the Black is Beautiful initiative last summer, more than a thousand breweries have joined the cause.

Last May, Marcus Baskerville was driving from San Antonio, Texas, to Dallas-Fort Worth for a collaboration project between his business, Weathered Souls Brewing, and Turning Point Brewery. For as routine as the trip began, it ended up sparking a movement that has since been embraced by more than a thousand breweries. Listening to a podcast interview with Breonna Taylor’s mother brought Baskerville, a father of two, to tears. Then, on the radio, news coverage of the various marches and protests taking place across the country incited him to action.

Within the space of a weekend, Baskerville had laid the framework for Black is Beautiful, a collaborative initiative aimed at bringing awareness to racial inequity and thus building more inclusive communities.

Baskerville, who originally worked in finance before catching the brewing bug, cofounded Weathered Souls with Mike Holt and Daryl Huffman in 2016. He is among a very small contingent of Black- or minority-owned breweries, which account for less than 1 percent of total U.S. breweries.

Those numbers won’t change overnight, but Baskerville hopes initiatives like Black is Beautiful will move the brewing sector—and the country writ large—in the right direction.

How did the Black is Beautiful campaign first start?

Just with my personality, I wouldn’t necessarily go to a protest, but I felt like I had to do something. I’m raising two young daughters, so you look at those situations where you know those things can affect your child, and it just really resonates with you.

So within the platform I have and the business I’m in, I had to figure out a way I could contribute. I thought about doing a beer, releasing it, then donating the money. I had Kevin Dyer, our label guy [for Weathered Souls] come up with a markup label with the idea that Black is beautiful. I also had a conversation with Jeffrey Stuffings from Jester King Brewing Company, and he suggested I turn it into a collaboration. And I was like, “You know what, Jeff? You’re right.”

We ask that participating breweries use our imperial stout recipe and donate 100 percent of those proceeds to organizations, foundations, and charities that support social justice reform, inclusion, equality, and diversity. So far, we’re close to about 1,200 breweries across 23 countries and all 50 states.

Do you see Black is Beautiful evolving over time?

We’re definitely looking to expand throughout the year and further. I know some breweries are planning barrel-aged versions. There are distilleries that are releasing their versions two to four years from now. We have a commercial coming out next year with Even now, there are more than 8,500 breweries in the U.S., so we’ve just scratched the surface. We’ll keep pushing the message, hoping that other people will join because social injustice and racism aren’t going away anytime soon.

Because of COVID-19, a lot of breweries haven’t been able to do specialty projects and donate 100 percent of proceeds. We understand that. Hopefully as things change, people will be able to fit the beer within their production schedule and get it out.

Even at this point, the Black is Beautiful initiative is transcending into other industries. We have a partnership with Jagermeister. New Riff in Kentucky came out with a Black is Beautiful Bottled in Bond specialty in their gift shop. There are going to be wineries involved; there’s going to be coffee. There’s actually going to be an NBA team involved that we’ll be able to announce soon.

I’ve been surprised by the amount of people who have decided to attach themselves to this initiative. Originally when I was talking to my business partner, I told him we might get about 250 breweries involved. So to see this amount of people participating, it’s like the brewing industry is making history. I don’t think any time in history we’ve seen so many businesses contribute and move commerce in support of social justice reform.

Has this initiative reached the restaurant world?

I haven’t seen too many restaurants get involved yet, but I’m hoping that’s a sector we can move into this year. Black is Beautiful started with beer, but the message goes well beyond just beer. This message and the conversation pieces can move to so many different industries and so many different businesses. This year I’m hoping to start moving it into other industries and get restaurants involved.

The brewery world has come under scrutiny for its lack of diversity. Can Black is Beautiful help shift that paradigm?

There are close to 8,500 breweries in the U.S., but only about 60 that are either Black- or minority-owned. So we definitely have a long way to go to even put a dent in the demographics of the brewing industry. But having 1,200 separate breweries participate shows me that the brewing industry does have the potential to be inclusive.

There are other projects that are happening based off Black is Beautiful. You have Crown & Hops running their 8 Trill Pils initiative. You have Brooklyn Brewing running the Michael Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling. You have Finback Brewing doing its Breathing Conversation series. Great Notion Brewing just reached out to us about doing a Reparations Beer series.

When you look at all these breweries that are furthering the message of Black is Beautiful, it shows that the brewing industry is looking for a change. And hopefully over the many years to come, we’ll start seeing the shift.