Craft breweries across the nation – by and large overwhelmingly white industries – have begun to creatively find ways to move beyond words and gestures to actively take steps to make change in their communities and to fight for racial justice. Giant Jones Brewing, an independent, woman-owned, certified organic craft brewery on Madison’s near east side, is very excited to have recently become part of the Black is Beautiful initiative, an international beer movement to bring awareness to equality issues and raise funds to support police reform and legal defenses.
“We started having a conversation about how the brewery can be an anti-racist organization because that’s an active thing. We had not positioned the brewery as anti-racist enough,” Jessica Jones, co-owner of Giant Jones Brewing Company with Erika Jones, tells Madison365. “We started having conversations in how we can shift our model towards a brewery that is anti-racist.”
One of the ideas that they came up with was that the Giant Jones social media feeds would be at least 1:1 posting about the brewery and reposting Black voices and other voices of color.
“The other thing we decided was that we would start giving across-the-board three percent of gross revenue – before we figured out what we actually made – to somebody who was doing the active work,” Jones says. “Eventually, we decided that would be Freedom Inc.
“We had talked about the possibility of making a beer to launch that but hadn’t gotten to that point,“ Jones adds. “But then the ‘Black is Beautiful’ initiative popped up on our radar and we loved it.”
Black Is Beautiful is an international campaign and collaborative effort that started out of Weathered Souls Brewing Company, an independent craft beer brewery in San Antonio, Texas. Its goal is to bring awareness to injustices that many people of color face daily and the brewery’s 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 Black Is Beautiful campaign now has 1,001 breweries in 19 different countries and in all 50 states in the United States. Here in Madison, Young Blood Beer Company, a new brewery on King St. downtown, just released two versions of ‘Black is Beautiful’ beer. Delta Beer Lab on Madison’s south side has a batch that will be out by the end of the month. Herbiery Brewery and Rockhound Brewing in Madison and Sunshine Brewery in Lake Mills have also signed up for the initiative, Jones says. Giant Jones released their beer last week.
“The ‘Black Is Beautiful’ beer fit perfectly into what we were doing,” Jones says. “There was no discussion. We were like, ‘How do we fit this into our brewing schedule as soon as possible?” Eight days later, the batch was fermenting.”
Weathered Souls sent Giant Jones a label design for each bottle and a recipe – designed to be a sweeter, fuller-bodied double stout – to use as a guideline to make the beer. Marcus Baskerville, co-owner and brewer for Weathered Souls, created the Black is Beautiful beer.
“The way that Marcus designed the recipe was that it was meant to highlight the beauty of various hues of roasted malt,” Jones says. “So you have the deep caramel of Crystal 120, you have the rich browns of chocolate malt and you have the lushness of black malt just layered.”
The label design is layered with gradients of black and brown, too. In addition to purchasing from Giant Jones’ online store or in person (at 931 East Main Street), you can find ‘Black is Beautiful’ at grocery stores and bars all around town. All proceeds from the sales go to Freedom Inc., a Black and Southeast Asian non-profit organization here in Madison that works with low- to no-income communities of color.
“You can order them online or we also take walk-up orders. We are taking all of the necessary COVID-19 precautions for in-person sales,” Jones says. “All of the profits for ‘Black Is Beautiful’ will go to Freedom Inc. and a percentage of our other sales will go towards them also.
“Freedom Inc.’s work really resonates personally with us. We are very excited to be a part of this,” she adds.