Black is Beautiful Creator Opening Charlotte Incubator to Further Brewing Inclusion
Ava DuVernay, American Filmmaker and Director of the 2014 film, Selma noted, “When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.”
This sentiment continues to ring true for Marcus Baskerville, co-founder of Weather Souls Brewing in San Antonio, TX, and creator of the Black is Beautiful initiative, a viral collaborative beer project that has seen participation from over 1,300 breweries and raised over $3 million to date toward organizations and efforts focused on promoting equity and inclusion.
But the mission does not end there. Today Axios announced that Weathered Souls Brewing will be opening up a second location at 255 Clanton Rd in Charlotte, NC’s Urban MVMNT complex. However, what will be more impactful about this news is that Baskerville will also be launching the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program within their new location to provide opportunities to women and people of color to gain hands-on training and education in brewing.
“We’re now in year two for Black is Beautiful, and while a few breweries continue to sign up and participate, it has sizzled down a bit,” explained Baskerville. “But I’m an individual that always has to outdo themselves. I got to a stress point trying while trying to figure out what’s next for Black is Beautiful and I didn’t want it to be a one-off.”
The incubator program also pays homage to Baskerville’s 93-year-old grandmother, Harriet, who Marcus recently discovered brewed and distilled hooch with her father during Prohibition. As the story goes, a white neighbor kept harassing the elder Baskerville about wanting to try her creation until one day she served him some of the concentrated mash out of spite. That resulted in the man falling off her roof, and out of fear she prayed and pledged to never brew or distill again if the Lord spared her life. In the end, the police never came and Baskerville kept her promise.
While the initial plan for the upcoming Weathered Souls Charlotte location was to open without a brewhouse, Marcus quickly realized he could utilize the new facility to help further their mission. As Baskerville notes, often, the most difficult barrier of entry for people of color hoping to join the brewing industry centers around difficulty accessing resources as well as access to equipment.
“When I was first getting started, the only resources I could find were on the Brewers Association’s website, but there are still folks who don’t even have the means to access those basic resources,” said Baskerville.
In addition to providing participants an opportunity to brew on a commercial system, the Hariett Baskerville Incubator Program will also partner with Yakima Chief Hops (YCH Hops) to offer courses on hop sensory training, White Labs, who will provide education on yeast propagation and Brewers Supply Group (BSG) on grain education. Baskerville also seeks to give participants a leg up with educational opportunities with world-class brewers like Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King.
Weather Souls’ Charlotte location aims to open by Late Spring / Early Summer of 2022 and will start by offering beer produced at their San Antonio location. Eventually, the new outpost will feature small-batch offerings brewed exclusively for their Charlotte taproom in addition to beers produced from the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program.
As for next steps, Baskerville is hoping to transition Black is Beautiful into a non-profit organization with a full Board of Directors that will be responsible for reviewing and selecting applicants for the incubator program. As for additional future locations, Baskerville explained that the decision to open up a second outpost came down to Charlotte, where co-founder Mike Holt spent 23 years previously and where his family still currently resides, or Sacramento, where Baskerville originally called home. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise to find a California location in the not too distant future.