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How This Maine Brewery Is Supporting Racial Equality

Want to know the most beautiful thing about the new Imperial Stout from Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company? It wasn’t their idea, and they’re not the only ones making it. Sort of.

How is a brewery’s non-unique idea for a beer what makes it notable? Let’s take a step back here.

2020 has been an objectively bad year, and much of its negativity came in the form of savage violence inflicted on people of color at the hands of police. While that’s unfortunately nothing new in this country, what is new this year, and what might be some of the only good to come out of this trip around the sun, is that we’re finally starting to address systemic racism head on.

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From protests to political action to support for groups like Black Lives Matter to new rules imposed on police forces to a perceptible shift in the public’s awareness of and growing intolerance for racism, both in systemic and individual form, it feels like things are getting better, slowly, in terms of the American discourse on race. (And as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, citing 19th century abolitionist Unitarian minister Theodore Parker: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”)

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More than we have seen in years, people are doing what they can to push back against intolerance and injustice and to support Black and brown people. When it comes to breweries, a lot of them are doing what they do best: They’re making beer. And not just any beer, but a beer called Black Is Beautiful.

It started with Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, TX, the place that came up with the idea to start making a dark, rich beer the profits of which they would donate entirely to causes supporting BIPOC people. Good ideas have a way of catching on, and this one caught in big. As in at last check, there are now 1,177 breweries spread across all 50 states and in no fewer than 22 states now brewing their own take on Black Is Beautiful and donating every penny of the sales. (And yes, that number should make you tear up. This is real.)

The Black Is Beautiful site explains brewery involvement in this way:

“In the collaboration efforts, we would ask for participating breweries to do the following:

  • Donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged
  • Choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion
  • Commit to the long-term work of equality”

What can you, the beer drinker do? Buy this beer. Buy it whenever you can, and from as many breweries as you can (and use the #BlackIsBeautfulBeer tag a lot, too) because beyond the movement and the message and the money, you stand to sip a lot of great dark beers.

You see, just as the community of color is rich with diversity, so too are Black Is Beautiful beers. Harpoon’s is a 7% ABV dry hopped tropical stout. Stone went with an Imperial Stout with flavors imbued thanks to pecans, rye, bourbon, and of course a rich grain bill and hops.

We’re zeroing in on Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company here because their Black Is Beautiful is simply not to be missed — like elevated awareness writ large, this beer is a spot of good to come out of the darkness of 2020.

A hearty 10% ABV Imperial Stout, it’s best sipped slow and appreciated accompanying good talk or deep thought. Its deep color comes from roasted barley and chocolate malt, with other grains including Red Wheat, Local Pale Malt, Flaked Flint Corn (grown by members of the New American Farmers project which works with resettled immigrants and refugees), Local Rolled Oats, Midnight Wheat, and a few others to boot. (That’s a complex grain bill, if you’re not up on your brewing, FYI.)

The mildly bitter balance comes thanks to Northern Brewer, Cascade, and Bravo hops, and the profile is rounded out by a Belgian (style) ale yeast.

It’s a superb beer here for a good reason, but it’s not here to stay, so sip now (but never hold your peace when it comes to doing the right thing).

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Steven John
Steven John is a writer and journalist living just outside New York City, by way of 12 years in Los Angeles, by way of…
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