Michigan breweries join fight against racial injustice

ALBION, Mich. (AP) — Two breweries in southern Michigan are planning to release a dark imperial stout called “Black is Beautiful” and will donate the profits from sales to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses.

Ben Wade, co-owner of Albion Malleable Brewing Company, said the joint effort with Territorial Brewing Company of Springfield is part of a global collaborative among brewers to shine a light on the inequities that people of color endure daily.

The announcement of the new beer, expected to be released at both Calhoun County breweries in late-July, follows weeks of nationwide demonstrations protesting police brutality and racial injustice after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“I think as a business owner, as a brewer, we’ve tried to stay apolitical. The last thing our brewery wants to do is get involved in politics or religion. But this is an issue that shouldn’t be political. It’s about right and wrong,” Wade told the Battle Creek Enquirer on Monday, noting that Albion has a roughly 30% Black population. “In our country, there is this freight train of realization where we have to be part of the solution. Too much of this country has been too quiet for too long to solve these problems.”

Wade said he reached out to Territorial Brewing co-owners Charles Grantier and Tim Davis, who were enthusiastic about partnering up for the project. The breweries consolidated resources to create the beer while still navigating their businesses through the COVID-19 outbreak.

Davis said the brewery made decision knowing it would lose customers and money. He said that although some patrons may view the brewery’s choice to publicly denounce systemic racism as being political, the company believes that advocating for equality is worth the financial risk.

“Not doing or saying something, was akin to saying Black lives don’t matter. We have seen a tiny bit of negative feedback from this, but that’s something we fully anticipate. This isn’t something that should ever be divisive,” Davis said of participating in the initiative that launched in San Antonio, Texas. The project’s website lists more than 900 participating breweries, including 21 in Michigan.

Territorial Brewing Co. said proceeds would be split between Sisters in Business, the Lakeview School District African-American Liaison Office and the Color the Creek mural festival, which recently created a Black Lives Matter mural in Battle Creek.

Revenue from Albion Malleable Brewing Co. will go to the city’s NAACP chapter.

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