Five breweries in the Valley and four others across Arizona have joined forces with a little known yet influential brewery out of Texas to brew a beer for social justice.
The “Black is Beautiful” collaboration sprung from the protests against racial injustice across the country in early June. It was the brainchild of San Antonio-based Weathered Souls Brewing Co. and its African-American owner, Marcus Baskerville, who proposed the idea of a mass-branded stout that multiple breweries around the U.S. and world would brew and release independently. Ryan Sendlin, owner of Dark Sky Brewing in Flagstaff, says he knew Baskerville through Facebook and was one of the first to get behind the project. “It’s turned into a huge cause,” Sendlin says. “It shows what the craft beer community is all about. It was a no-brainer.”
At press time, 863 breweries across all 50 states and 13 countries signed on.
Each brewery that signs up is encouraged to donate proceeds from the beer to a charity that supports police reform, legal defense, or equality and inclusion. Dark Sky tells PHOENIX it will donate all proceeds from sales of this beer to The National Lawyers Guild.
Chip Mulala, who has perhaps the most epic job title in Arizona brewing – Minister of Craft Beer at Tempe’s Huss Brewing – says his company was also quick to respond because it’s part of their DNA. “We’re trying to impact our community through what we do best, which is beer,” Mulala says. “If we can help a cause out through our beer, that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s why this ‘Black is Beautiful’ project made complete sense to us. It matches who we are and what we’ve been doing.” Huss plans to donate proceeds to Until Freedom.
At Sedona Beer Company, owner Kali Gajewski now operates the business full time after leaving her career in social work earlier this year. She is an ally to the cause. “Social work puts you in a lot of places where you can see the inequities in our world very clearly because of the work,” Gajewski says. “I’ve always been an advocate for open discussion around systemic racism and things that make our world more challenging for people of color.”
Sedona Beer Co. plans to donate the proceeds to NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“We talked about having a beer that is about social justice on until we don’t need one anymore, which will be a great day. Not a day I see coming soon” Gajewski says.
With U.S. cities roiled by protests, and debates over the removal of statues, books and other cultural properties raging anew, the project is boldly entering charged political territory. The brewers say they don’t mind.
“It’s a human thing,” Ryan Sendlin tells PHOENIX. “It’s not Republican/Democrat. This is for the people. The response has been super positive which is really cool to see.”
Chip Mulala at Huss agrees. “We don’t weigh in on politics when it comes to blue and red. That’s something on purpose we stay away from. This is about making a difference and we’re sticking to the positivity of this. We hope the people who support us will continue to support us.”
Gajewski at Sedona Beer Co. concedes a certain risk. “Yes I may lose customers over this, but there’s a lot of choices I make everyday that I could lose customers over. The risk of losing customers over this… it’s too important. Where we are in the country right now is too important than that being the reason I stop. I wanted to be able to put my money where my mouth is. I can have my own opinions, but for the company it’s about standing for a cause, advocating for change, and investing in it.”
When is it Available?
Huss is brewing a summer stout that is deep, dark black in color but light and dry to enjoy in the Arizona summer months. It should be around 6.9% ABV and is expected to release July 1 only in its taprooms.
Sedona Beer Co. is also brewing a dark black beer that is more drinkable and more summery than a typical heavy stout. They plan to release it June 25, depending on open tap handles.
Dark Sky Brewing wanted to go “big and awesome” so they went the heavier route, coming in at 13% ABV. They’re using ingredients from Chris Smith, executive chef at Merkin Vineyards & Osteria in Cottonwood, to brew an imperial stout with cardomom, vanilla and cinnamon roasted pecans. Expect this in cans and in the taproom July 3.