comScore

What's it like to collab-brew the new 'Black is Beautiful' beer in rural Minnesota?

From Minnesota's remote northwest corner, Revelation Ale Works is brewing beer for the "Black is Beautiful" initiative – a collaborative effort among brewers meant to draw attention to injustices many people of color face daily.

From Minnesota's remote northwest corner, Revelation Ale Works is brewing beer for the "Black is Beautiful" initiative – a collaborative effort among brewers meant to draw attention to injustices many people of color face daily. Revelation Ale Works / Facebook

Try, if possible, to recall earlier this year, way back in April. (We know it’s hard!) The craft beer industry united on a worldwide scale to support its own folk, from within, by brewing All Together IPA. Its proceeds were donated to local organizations founded to support out-of-work service industry folk, including employees laid off from taprooms and breweries. 

At the time, we wrote about the astonishing power of a single beer to “[build] a support system for the rattled, while making it possible to know exactly what someone else very far away is clutching, tasting, and experiencing.”

Little did we know the All Together project as a whole would lay the groundwork for beer-as-a-cause, or that its next version would challenge the industry to dig deeper, and perhaps look beyond itself. 

About a week ago, the “Black is Beautiful” initiative -- created by Marcus Baskerville, founder and head brewer of San Antonio’s Weathered Souls Brewing Co. -- was formed in direct response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. 

Baskerville, who is Black, explains that he “has personally dealt with the abuse of power by the police, [and] this recent turmoil the country is facing has hit home for me.” In response, he and his colleagues took the tools at their disposal (read: beer) and mobilized.

“We took a stout recipe and decided to call on our peers in the brewing industry to collaborate in unison for equality and inclusion amongst people of color,” Baskerville wrote on the Black is Beautiful site, which houses the beer’s open-source recipe, promo materials, an area that tracks and registers brewers’ participation, and labels for distributing the final product (in partnership with KD Designs and Creative Mango). 

In exchange for participating, brewers are asked to: 

  • Donate 100% of the beer's proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged
  • Find a local entity of their choice to donate to, which supports equality and inclusion
  • Commit to the long-term work of equality… full stop.

When they hit markets, find the imperial stouts emblazoned with this logo.

When they hit markets, find the imperial stouts emblazoned with this logo. Black is Beautiful

Fifteen Minnesota breweries (and counting) have pledged to brew and sell Black is Beautiful, an imperial stout that clocks in at 10% ABV. Participants range from local Twin Cities heavyweights like Pryes and Blackstack to Duluth’s Ursa Minor, and hinterland big boys like Lupulin and Forager.

Northeast Minneapolis’s Able Seedhouse + Brewery announced they will be co-brewing their stout with start-ups Arbeiter Brewing, who’ve been working toward opening just half a block from the (now-torched) Third Precinct station. “It will be a while” before their batch is ready for purchase, but when it comes out, Able said proceeds will go to Reclaim the Block, Urban League Twin Cities, and We Love Lake Street

Meanwhile, about as far away in Minnesota as one can get from the Third Precinct, Revelation Ale Works' beer should be ready for distribution from Alexandria to Grand Rapids within two weeks or so. Google Maps says a roadtrip to their charming taproom, located in a historic remodeled service station in downtown Hallock, Minnesota (population 981) takes a hair under six hours… each way.

“It’s just a rural part of the state. I mean, the percentage of white people in our county is a lot,” head brewer Ryan Evenson told City Pages, and also mentioned that Kittson County, where Hallock is located, has only had one (single) confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Evenson underlined that for as far away and bubble-like as Revelation may seem, they're participating in the Black is Beautiful collaborative brew because “Minneapolis is part of our community.” Giving big, experimental beers a home in rural Minnesota is a fundamental element of Revelation’s mission, so rather than letting local demographics complicate their involvement in Black is Beautiful, Evenson is leaning into it. “I'm excited for the first conversation we have in the taproom. Y’know, pour a pint and, like, somebody asks, ‘Oh what does this mean?’ We can have that conversation,” he says.

The trickiest part for Revelation’s team came in finding where they’d send proceeds from the stout’s sales. Ultimately they settled on the Brewing Change Collaborative, whose m.o. is one of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the brewing industry. “That’s something that’s… in Minnesota, there aren’t that many… minority-owned breweries,” explained Evenson of their choice. “I mean we would donate the money even more locally, but there’s nothing really local that fits in,” he added, with a laugh.

“We’re doing it up here just mostly to create awareness and it's… it's fun for us to be able to address some of the issues we are dealing with in a different way.”