Supporting racial justice through beer
Since our 2020 can release last spring, we’ve been much more focused on keeping the lights on than experimenting with new recipes in the brewery. That said, we are very excited that a special opportunity came along that allowed us to not only show off our brewing chops but do it for a cause we believe in.
We’re proud to be joining a multi-brewery collaborative project, and brewing Black is Beautiful. The Black is Beautiful project was created by Marcus Baskerville of Weathered Souls (a Black-owned brewery in San Antonio, Texas) to raise awareness of the systemic injustices faced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our society. Baskerville wrote the original recipe, and invited breweries across the country to brew their own versions of this high gravity stout. Each participating brewery is donating 100% of their proceeds to local organizations that support equality and inclusion.
We’re choosing to contribute our Black is Beautiful (BIB) proceeds to the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, a nonprofit (not far from the Fort Point distribution center) that provides affordable housing, employment, health care, and education to individuals suffering from poverty and homelessness in Bayview/Hunters Point. Our intent is to make this a new ongoing partnership that goes beyond the BIB initiative, but we’re certainly excited that it’s the start.
🖤We hope you join us in supporting this effort…it’s fun, you get to drink beer! 🖤
Last week, I had a chance to chat with two people who made this collaboration happen at Fort Point: Ashanti Abdullah, our National Accounts Manager and leader of Fort Point’s Black in Beer Collective, and brewer Felipe Bravo. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look and perspective:
Ashanti (left) and Felipe (right) on the brew deck working on Black is Beautiful
Where are you guys from, and what was your path into the beer industry?
Ashanti: Minneapolis, MN, Home of the Juicy Lucy. My path actually starts with our can design. During a trip to Trader Joe’s on Masonic, I spied a 6-pack that had a very unusual design for a beer. I got home, opened the can, took a sip, noticed that the quality of the liquid matched the quality of the design. I put in an application for whatever position was open at the time (Sales Associate) at that very moment. In an awesome way, my education of the beer industry ran a parallel line with the growth of our awesome company. After spending some time at the ground level, I took over day-to-day management of our On Premise San Francisco sales team, and most recently transferred to the National Accounts team to head it up.
Felipe: I am a proud South Bay Area native, born and raised in Downtown San Jose. I have lived in many parts of the Bay Area and the Central Coast, but am happy to finally settle back down in San Jose. I was initially on a journey to receive my Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering; having worked at a few different engineering firms along the way. It wasn’t until my last year in graduate school that the call to switch careers was too loud to drown out. I went to my local brewery and asked for a job washing kegs. That was 6 years ago, since then I have worked at 3 different breweries, with the last 4 years at Fort Point as a production brewer and R&D manager.
Why do you think it’s important that Fort Point is a part of this? Why did we decide to brew Black is Beautiful?
Ashanti: I think the overall national [Black is Beautiful] mission is a noble one, and a generally good idea to connect with on a grander scale. A call back to the turbulent times for Blacks in our nation during the birth of the civil rights movement, and a reminder that after all these years later, the movement still lives and we need change NOW. For Fort Point specifically, brewing this beer is a good way for us to START the work around making the voices of people like myself heard and included in our day to day work at Fort Point.
Felipe: It’s important to me that Fort Point joins the effort because, ultimately, this company represents the spirit of San Francisco and inclusivity. As a diverse group of individuals that create and distribute beer, we need our values to carry into the product. By participating in this initiative, Fort Point is taking the stance that we do not support racism, we do not tolerate brutality against People of Color, and we will use our resources to help promote change.
What does brewing this beer mean to you?
Ashanti: Candidly, it’s more about the actions that my fellow team members are making to bring attention to themselves and our consumers about racial injustice and anti-blackness.
Felipe: As a person of color, it is an extreme honor to use my career in brewing as a platform to help others. During my 6 years in the craft beer industry, I have not once had the opportunity to be a part of an initiative like this. I hope that it is the start of many other chances to invest in our communities and do good in the world.
The packaging and labeling setup at the brewery
What things would you like to see happen to drive meaningful change in the beer industry when it comes to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Ashanti: Representation. We aren’t represented as a whole in the beer community and that isn’t by accident. It behooves us to seek out, hire, train, and educate the Black community on all things beer.
Felipe: I would like to see access to more affordable education and training for communities of color. If there are programs for people to learn about brewing beer, and the different opportunities within the industry, there will be an increase in diverse groups applying for jobs, starting their own breweries and bars, and building a beer community that is more representative of mixed cultures. With this structure, it’s important that diversity in upper management exists, so there is reflection and inspiration that we all can do it too.
Ashanti, you did the research when deciding to who we should donate our BIB proceeds to. How did we pick The Bayview/Hunters Point Foundation?
Ashanti: A big part of our search for our community partner started right here in our backyard: Bayview/Hunters Point. Although not always on every map you may see of San Francisco, Bayview/Hunters Point is a large part of our cultural diversity in our city and boasts a very rich history in its own right. The Bayview/Hunters Point Foundation has been DOING the work in our community for almost 50 years. In fact, when they started in 1971 their main focus was helping provide legal representation to under-resourced Black men in San Francisco. Since then, they’ve expanded their efforts to life skills coaching, social work, and homeless services in the neighborhood. It was quite natural for us to partner with the leaders of change in the community that is most at risk — the predominantly Black community in San Francisco.
Felipe, you focused a lot of your time at Fort Point on R+D, especially for our newest cans. When thinking about the Black is Beautiful, what changes did you make to the recipe and why?
Felipe: We have reworked the ingredient selection, but not it’s spirit! We wanted to highlight softer specialty malts that give smooth chocolate, coffee, and nutty flavors to integrate with our special hand-selected hops. I joked that the working name for this beer was “Imperial Summer Porter” because it borrows concepts that we have implemented in lower alcohol dark beers (Nitro Summer Porter and Black) with great success. The main substitutions were using sweet malted oats, high level double roasted crystal malt, and brown sugar for a rich bakers cocoa and honey-like flavor. In place of Cascade hops we used Centennial, which is sometimes referred to as “Super Cascade.” Its bright, floral, and fruity aromatics help unite the entire concept to an approachable, Fort Point style beer.
Mmm, now…can you describe the beer for someone who knows nothing about brewing? What does it taste, smell, and feel like?
Felipe: It’s a stout that is rich on the palate, with light coffee roast, medium chocolate intensity with caramelized honey, molasses, and lingering hop bitterness. The alcohol strength of 10% is well hidden, with just a hint of spice for a very warming, comforting finish. Overall, I’m really happy that we were able to create such a balanced beer while incorporating a lot of complex ingredients and flavors.
Ashanti: Dark, sweet, and smooth. A great beer to enjoy with a piece of German chocolate cake.
What do you guys think is the ideal way to drink this beer?
Felipe: I think the best way to enjoy this beer is with intention. It isn’t quite the casual sipper like our core offerings, so take your time and reflect on what this beer represents when you drink it. Find a comfortable place to relax, pour the beer into your favorite stemware, and enjoy it while reflecting on what good you can do for others.
Ashanti: I’d suggest finding a quiet place, curling up with a book, and reading the New Jim Crow while enjoying this delicious beer.
Yes! Excellent suggestions. Who are some other breweries doing good work around racial justice and diversity that you would encourage people to support?
Ashanti: I’d encourage everyone to connect with Crowns & Hops via social media. Crowns & Hops are quickly becoming leaders in addressing the disparity of diversity in the craft beer industry.
Felipe: Brooklyn Brewery’s Brewmaster Garrett Oliver helped launch The Michael Jackson Foundation, which funds scholarship awards to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color within the brewing and distilling trades. Giving People of Color technical education and qualifications is the first step in creating a more inclusive industry.
Anything we haven’t talked about that you think is important to mention?
Felipe: Beer is enjoyed by everybody. I think it’s time to start opening the trade so it can be brewed by everybody as well.
Ashanti: I’d just like to include that the brainpower and overall brawn behind the actual beer was Felipe. He really took to heart my thoughts around why this beer means something and created liquid that is utterly fantastic. I was happy to spend the day brewing the beer with him!!