At least 10 Tampa Bay area breweries have joined forces with Black is Beautiful to provide a brew that fights for change for those facing injustice.
Spearheaded by Marcus Baskerville, head brewer and co-owner of Weathered Souls Brewing Company in San Antonio, Texas, the Black is Beautiful initiative is a national collaborative effort bringing together breweries and patrons to “raise awareness for the injustices people of color face daily and raise funds for police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.”
According to the website, breweries participating in the initiative, which launched June1, were provided with a stout base recipe from Weathered Souls; their own twists were to be added, and 100% of the proceeds were to be donated to local foundations that support police brutality reform, equality and inclusion and legal defenses. Each brew will also use a special label provided by Black is Beautiful.
“Our mission is to bridge the gap that's been around for ages and provide a platform to show that the brewing community is an inclusive place for everyone of any color,” the website said. “We are asking for all breweries and brewers far and wide to raise a glass with us in unison and participate in this collaboration.”
In total, 34 total Florida breweries are listed on the Black is Beautiful website; a list of local participating Tampa Bay area breweries is at the bottom of this article.
Bayboro Brewing announced via Facebook the proceeds from its brew will be donated to the Woodson Warrior Scholarship, which provides learning opportunities to African American students in Pinellas County. Brew Life Brewing will be donating to the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition and Tampa Heights’ Hidden Springs Ale Works will be donating proceeds to the Equal Justice Initiative.
St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing Company will be donating to the Pinellas County American Civil Liberties Union chapter. Head brewer and co-owner Khris Johnson (pictured) told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that Green Bench Brewing paid for all ingredients and labor out of pocket, as well.
“We're not just donating profits, we're actually donating everything. So we're actually not even covering our cost of this,” Johnson said. “And then every single dime that we made back from the beer, we are donating 100% of it.”
The decision to donate to the ACLU chapter of Pinellas County came from Johnson’s wanting to support an organization with longevity and an impactful track record, he said. The Pinellas chapter is the second oldest local chapter in the state of Florida.
“When I decided to sign up for this, I was like, ‘Let me find a place that has, in my opinion, some of the best infrastructure to assist in criminal justice reform and social equality in our immediate area,’” he said. “And, ultimately that’s why we decided to do the Pinellas chapter of the ACLU, because they constantly have things going on, they constantly have the infrastructure, they have brilliant minds and people that are already set up in their organization.”
While the Black is Beautiful effort invites breweries to personalize and add to the baseline stout recipe given out, Green Bench decided to not stray too far from the original imperial stout.
“We actually stuck pretty close to his original recipe,” Johnson said. “I was one of the first breweries to sign up… It was a tighter group of people and the idea was he would give us all the same recipe, we would brew the same recipe and then sell it.”
But Johnson’s plan for the brew’s release changed when an emergency executive order was issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. On Friday, June 26, banning alcohol consumption at bars in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus after a surge in state cases.
Because the state hasn’t provided much detail on the order and its lifespan, Johnson hasn’t been able to designate an official release date for the beer.
“We brewed the beer already, before the shutdown happened again, and it’ll be set to package in a couple weeks and then we’ll just hopefully have people show up and buy it.”
Green Bench’s doors are not currently open to in-house customers, but the brewery is still offering to-go orders and packaged beer pickup.
Joining the Black is Beautiful initiative hasn’t been Green Bench’s first shot at raising awareness and supporting causes for justice and equality. Around the time Green Bench opened, about seven years ago, it partnered with Beer Kulture, a nonprofit organization that seeks to foster opportunities for inclusion, equity and diversity, according to its website.
“I think Green Bench is unique in that we’ve actually cared about this issue for a long time and we’ve been actively in the conversation about this issue for a long time,” Johnson said. “This isn’t our first time not only having these discussions, this is also not our first time donating money and trying to raise awareness to the fact that there are people that do not have the same privileges around us.”
More recently, the brewery donated to St. Pete’s Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum and set up an area to hand out snacks and water to protestors engaging in downtown Tampa Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“Obviously, I think at the end of the day, Green Bench has always wanted to be a place that was inclusive, that was excited about having all sorts of different people,” Johnson said. “I mean, hell, that’s why the name of our brewery is Green Bench.”
Tampa Bay “Black Is Beautiful” participants
- Bayboro Brewing, St. Petersburg
- Big Top Brewing Company, Sarasota
- Brew Life Brewing Co., Sarasota
- Cigar City Brewing, Tampa
- Flying Boat Brewing Co., St. Petersburg
- Green Bench Brewing, St. Petersburg
- Gulfport Brewery and Eatery, Gulfport
- Hidden Springs Ale Works, Tampa
- King State, Tampa
- Overflow Brewing Company, St. Petersburg
- Tampa Beer Works, Tampa
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