It was all hands on deck at Ames’ Alluvial Brewing Company on a recent Friday afternoon, as silver cans moved down an assembly line to be filled with stout, labeled, packaged and stacked onto a pallet.
The beer, which boasts the name Black is Beautiful in block letters on its side, will do more than just be enjoyed, according to Alluvial owner Elliot Thompson. It will also help make a difference by raising awareness for “the injustices that many people of color face daily.”
“We wanted to use our platform to keep the conversation (around equality issues and police reform) going, and make sure people are still thinking about it because it’s not going away,” Thompson said. “We all need to do better at thinking every day about how we can do our part to help. For us, this is how we could do that.”
The Black is Beautiful beer is part of a nationwide initiative to bring awareness to equality issues and raise funds to support organizations that work toward equality. It all started with Marcus Baskerville, co-owner and brewer for San Antonio brewery Weathered Souls.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Baskerville said he wanted brewers to make a change for justice in their own communities following the death of George Floyd, so he put out a call to brewers across the nation, asking them to brew his stout recipe and donate 100% of the proceeds to “local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.”
“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,” Baskerville said on the Weathered Souls website. “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. For us, we feel that this is our contribution to a step.”
Shortly after Baskerville put out the call, Thompson answered it.
“I wanted to support (Baskerville’s) vision, brew his beer and bring this message to our community,” he said.
Thompson said he started with the base recipe by Weathered Souls, which was designed to be a moderately high ABV stout to showcase the different shades of black. Then, he started looking for his own twist.
That’s when Thompson reached out to Randolf Bryan of Waterloo for the next steps in the process: finding the perfect additive and canning the beer for to-go sales.
Bryan, who owns both Cedar Falls coffee shop Cottonwood Canyon Coffee and CanUp — a mobile canning line that partners with breweries that lack the space to store or the money to buy machinery and equipment needed to can beer — was happy to help.
The pair used Ethiopian coffee from Bryan’s business to flavor the stout, which Thompson said “is a classic stout with some nice roastiness to it.” The coffee “has a nice, rich flavor that compliments the beer really well.”
“We wanted to support a Black-owned business for it, so it worked out really well,” Thompson said. “So that was our little spin on it.”
Then it was time to start the canning process.
CanUp previously canned beer for Alluvial, since it needed to can its beer in order to sell it while the taproom remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. When asked to return to Ames to can the Black is Beautiful beer, they were excited to be a part of the collaboration.
“Obviously, we know what’s been going on right now, and this is just to bring awareness,” Bryan said. “I love what (Alluvial Brewing) is doing, I love the passion they bring, and I love to partner with them.”
Bryan and the rest of CanUp’s team arrived at Alluvial shortly before 11 a.m. on July 24 and, alongside Thompson and other members of Alluvial’s staff, got to work. They packaged 250 four-packs and started selling them online that afternoon.
The four-packs can be purchased online at store.alluvialbrewing.com for $16, or from Alluvial’s taproom for to-go orders only. All proceeds are going to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Ames Black Lives Matter and Des Moines Mutual Aid.
Thompson hopes the community will use it as an opportunity to not only enjoy a new, local beer, but also to have difficult conversations.
“Hopefully it makes people think … we all need to be aware of what is going on and take it seriously,” Thompson said. “As a company, as a family and community, we wanted to show that the brewing community is inclusive and we support each other.
“We chose to be a part of this to continue to draw awareness to the movement and use our platform to stand in solitude.”
Nine other Iowa breweries are currently participating in the initiative: Barn Town Brewing in West Des Moines, Brightside Aleworks in Altoona, Fox Brewing in West Des Moines, Jubeck New World Brewing in Dubuque, Lua Brewing in Des Moines, Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. in Decorah, Singlespeed Brewing Co. in Waterloo, Wise Brewing Company in Le Mars, and Worth Brewing Company in Northwood.
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