Capsoul Presents Cohesion: Where Craft Meets Culture

by | Aug 10, 2020 | EAT DRINK

Capsoul exists to help diversify taprooms and bring new communities to the world of craft beer. Their latest effort in this direction is Cohesion, a Double IPA bringing together the talents of Vasen Brewing and streetwear company Chilalay.

On August 15th, Capsoul is presenting Cohesion: a new beer that is the product of a collaboration between local Richmond brewery, Vasen, and a local streetwear company called Chilalay. Capsoul is a unique RVA company that acts as a cultural adhesive between local brewers and other Richmond businesses in other industries.

Eric Jackson is one of the cofounders of Capsoul, and offered some of his time to enlighten us on their mission and latest project. “The whole purpose of Capsoul is to diversify and energize taprooms… by bringing in new clientele, new faces, and a new demographic,” he said.

Photo via Capsoul/Facebook

Capsoul puts on events in local taprooms and operates brewery tours, but they primarily work to connect local brewers with potential collaborators in an effort to make craft beer culture inclusive, diverse, and more interesting. “A lot of times those demographics aren’t new to beer, but are new to feeling comfortable and at home in those spaces,” he said. 

Capsoul have a unique business model, one part production company and one part creative consultants. Through their operations, they help local brewers expand into new territories and make new connections by enlarging their social and business networks. Because every project and collaboration looks different and functions differently, it can be difficult to sum up what Capsoul does succinctly. There are their brewery events, as well as a magazine they publish on a regular basis. They also host a podcast about craft beer culture.

“We talk to different industry people within the brewery scene, local hip-hop artists, things like that,” said Jackson. “Our motto is ‘where craft meets culture.’” Part of the reason Capsoul is so versatile, and why it’s services and productions are so diverse, is because their interests and passions are equally eclectic. “We love craft beer but we also love the culture that we’re in,” he said. “It’s an outpouring of our passions.”

For Jackson, the dedication and enthusiasm that craft beer fans possess for the artful passion of craft beer is not so different from the enthusiasm streetwear fans have for their own passions. “In the same way people go out and stand in line for the new Jordans, craft beer drinkers do the same exact thing,” he said. “I think it’s a commodity that we all understand and it brings us together. It’s showing that there’s this cohesion right in our midst, and we don’t always see it.”

When Jackson was asked why he thinks some people who might enjoy it don’t discover craft beer, he said, “I think it’s a lack of exposure. I was exposed to craft beer within the career that I was working, and I loved it.” However, he immediately had to wonder why more of his friends didn’t seem to know about it.

“Why don’t any of my friends know about craft beer?” he remembered thinking. “There’s some really great options, besides Corona and Bud Light and the stuff you find in the store, at local spots in the city, that we can support the community and enjoy.”

Photo via Capsoul/Facebook

Cohesion is Capsoul’s newest baby. This collaboration between Vasen and Chililalay is a hoppy, fruity double IPA, highly anticipated by the craft beer fanatics of Richmond. “We used southern passion which is a very fruity, floral hop,” Jackson said. “We used African Queen, which comes from South Africa, and we used Asaka… It’s gonna be a double IPA, 8%, hazy dank fruit notes.”

So how did this collaboration come to be? And what inspired the team-up between an urban clothing company and a local brewery? Jackson assures us that it didn’t happen overnight.

“The relationship between Vasen and Capsoul is over a year old,” said Jackson. Capsoul first worked with Vasen last year during their Hop Crawl. Later, they returned to Vasen to make a brew in collaboration with the Pink Boots Society, an organization that highlights an under-represented demographic in the craft beer community: women.

So what about the other half of the collaboration? Chilalay is a clothing store on Broad Street downtown that specializes in streetwear. In light of their location, they were affected in an unfortunate way by the protests that took place in late May and early June when their building was vandalized. Jackson wanted to make sure the collaboration would give back to Chilalay.

Photo via Chilalay/Facebook

From that inspiration, Jackson had the idea to do a collaboration that would bring business to Chilalay and raise money to help them repair damages and recoup losses. “They had to close down the storefront for about two months,” Jackson said. “[So I thought,] how about we do the release party at Chilalay and have Chilalay design a t-shirt? It’s turned into this whole three-day weekend release party in August around this conversation and idea of Cohesion.”

The name for Cohesion comes from Capsoul’s desire to “bring things together in unity,” as Jackson explains. He hopes that, by creating a collaborative craft brew that brings together two cultures not usually associated with one another, an increased sense of the things the different groups have in common will result.

The label artwork for Cohesion features the work of Virginia Beach artist Marlon Diggs. “He specializes in pop art,” Jackson said of Diggs. “We kind of told him what we were doing, but we didn’t give him too much direction. He put the art together, and we thought it turned out beautiful; really showcased what we are doing in the city.”

The theme of Cohesion applies not only to the beer’s collaborative nature, but to the artwork Diggs created as well. “Even with the theme of pop art, you bring all these different scattered and bruised and blurred pieces together and you make this one beautiful piece,” said Jackson. “When we saw his piece, it just made sense.”

For Diggs, pop art came into play in his design for the Cohesion label through his appreciation for commercial images of bygone eras.

“I originally drew inspiration from old weathered billboards and advertisements,” he said. “I’ve always been able to see the beauty in chaos, layers of ads and posters peeling off of a billboard.”

Image by Marlon Diggs, courtesy Capsoul

This aesthetic works well for the collaboration with Chilalay’s streetwear style. The art contains deeper layers of meaning within the broader context of Cohesion as well. “This piece is one that means a lot to me from a lot of angles — a group of Black men coming together seamlessly to create something I think will leave a lasting impression and impact on the community,” Diggs said. “The artwork itself [is] of a black woman peeking through and standing out amongst the chaos — different pieces one may usually overlook, coming together to create something beautiful. It’s kind of symbolic of Black people, the way a billboard may become weathered over time or fade, [but it’s] still standing, and the message is still heard through it all.”

Both Jackson and co-founder Ty Murdaugh are Black, and the Black Lives Matter movement has been an inspiration for them in their work with Capsoul. “By nature, Capsoul looks to diversify,” Jackson said. “We don’t necessarily say we are a Black organization, but I think it’s by nature that people see that.”

In the wake of the protests that have been taking place around the city, the country, and beyond over the past two months, Capsoul have found themselves involved in more conversations about racial justice, and the lack of diversity that exists within craft beer culture.

“We have been more outspoken about the things that we, as a Black community, go through on a daily, weekly, yearly basis,” said Jackson. “We are mainly speaking about craft beer, but myself and my business partner have gone out to the protests. And we talk about it, we’ve posted about it. If you listen to our podcast those topics are coming up — our frustrations with what’s going on… but we’re also speaking about it over a cold pint.”

The official Cohesion release party will be on August 15th, but the entire weekend will feature events that are part of Capsoul’s celebration of community, collaboration and, of course, good beer. It begins with a pre-release party at Chilalay on Friday, August 14, and all proceeds from that event will be donated back to Chilalay. There will be a DJ, Vasen will be in attendance, and Capsoul will be selling posters of the Cohesion label art, as well as a collaborative t-shirt with Chilalay, commemorating the craft brew.

The official release party for Cohesion will take place the next day at Vasen, from 12 til 6 pm. A DJ will be there as well, as will Chilalay, Capsoul, and label artist Marlon Diggs. Then, to cap off the release weekend, there will be a VIP event at Vasen’s barrel room. “That event is strictly to highlight Vasen and Tony, the head brewer, to talk about their barrel program and the beers that they have,” Jackson said.

Capsoul hopes to expand the reach of craft beer and to get new people interested in the complexity and beauty of high quality, locally brewed beer. They aim to bridge the gap between people that drink craft beer and those who aren’t acquainted with its pleasures. “A lot of time within craft beer, there is an ocean-sized difference between the people that drink craft beer and those that don’t,” said Jackson. “{But] I think we are all really one and the same.”

Top Photo via Capsoul/Facebook

Mitchel Bamberger

Mitchel Bamberger

Mitchel Bamberger is a writer and musician from Richmond, VA with a vast array of interests from environmental sustainability to poetry, music, and all things creative. As an active artist in the local music scene, Mitchel has a finger on the pulse of the thriving organism that is RVA music. This young writer is ambitious and advantageous, with a diverse background of creative writing experience in poetry, prose, songwriting, and most recently, journalism.

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