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What Black is Beautiful Means to Louisville Breweries

What Black is Beautiful Means to Louisville Breweries
Kindsey Bernhard

Louisville has been at the forefront of the Black Live Matter movement for months due to the death of Breonna Taylor on March 13. So, When the opportunity to participate in the Weathered Souls Brewing Black is Beautiful beer collaboration came up, Louisville breweries didn’t think twice about participating. It was the perfect way to combine two things very important to them: brewing great beer and supporting their community.

Five Louisville breweries participated in the project; Falls City Beer, False Idol Independent Brewers, Mile Wide Beer Co., Monnik Beer Co. and Old Louisville Brewery.

“We just feel that with so much going on, especially with Louisville and with Breonna Taylor, it’s really kind of a focal point,” Drew Johnson, director of operations at Falls City Beer, said. “You hear her name on national news and that’s coming from right in our backyard. We felt that it was something that we needed to do to take a stance, to show that we support what is going on and just to try to do whatever we can to bring awareness to what is happening in our society, especially in Louisville.”

Falls City Beer partnered with Monnik Beer Co. to brew the Black is Beautiful beer. The two breweries donated all of its profits to Change Today, Change Tomorrow.

Photo contributed by Mile Wide Beer Co.

Being silent was something that never occurred to these breweries during this difficult time. False Idol Independent Brewers had been very vocal during all the protests in support of various movements, so Mile Wide felt it would be a natural fit for the two breweries to partner up for the collaboration.

“The Black Lives Matter movement, the protests, all these things were happening all over the country, all over the world but Lousiville was obviously one of the epicenters of it,” Scott Sheffler, co-founder of Mile Wide, said. “And I think there’s a responsibility on people who can make a difference to do that and to not be silent and to not sit by the wayside to get involved in any way you can.”

False Idol and Mile Wide donated its profits to The Movement for Black Lives. For the Black is Beautiful collaboration, Weathered Souls asked breweries 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.” That didn’t mean after the breweries paid off the ingredients and labor used to brew the beer. It meant taking a financial loss for the betterment of their city and to help in the right for racial equality.

Old Louisville Brewery co-owner and brewer Ken Mattingly knew the collaboration was a no-brainer for his brewery in West Louisville. Old Louisville Brewery donated its profits to The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.

“We just felt like that given something back to the community was the right thing to do,” Mattingly said. “I think in these times all businesses are doing what they can to stay afloat, but we thought this was at least some tiny effort we could make or put in to contribute to the cause.”

“When I first saw it was available I just thought let’s jump on this. This is a way to give back to the community. We are on the edge of Old Louisville on the west side so we kind of butt up to some of the African American communities and we would like to partner with them and be a place where they can feel they’re welcome and it’s safe to come to.”

It’s been over a month since Old Louisville released and sold out of Black is Beautiful on draft and in cans, but Mattingly doesn’t want the fight for racial equality and diversity to end there.

While virtually attending the Fresh Fest Digi Fest, America’s first Black (digital) beer fest, Mattingly said he wanted to come up with ways to make his brewery more inclusive after listening to one of the panelists.

“I never really thought before about how to make things more inclusive,” Mattingly said. “How do you make it known that anybody can come in here and be treated equally, outside of word of month and experiences and stuff.”

Photo contributed by Old Louisville Brewery

During a conversation with his son-in-law, Mattingly came up with the idea to contact the University of Louisville Black Student Union.

“We can contact them and talk to them about how we want to have more people of color in the industry. Maybe they have somebody who would be interested in working a bartending shift once a week. Something kind of like that to be more inclusive, open ourselves up to diversity and hopefully give the community more of a reason to come in and be a part of it.”

For Falls City Beer, False Idol Independent Brewers, Mile Wide Beer Co., Monnik Beer Co. and Old Louisville Brewery to take a financial loss to give back to their Louisville community, a community that is hurting, is what being a craft brewery is all about.

The Black is Beautiful collaboration is just one part of the process of helping their home city of Louisville. And, these five breweries don’t have any plans of stopping soon.

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