Virginia craft breweries are participating in the Black Is Beautiful initiative, raising funds for charities supporting people of color and creating their own spins on a collaborative recipe. We caught up with Hardywood and The Veil to learn about their take on the imperial stout.
New imperial stouts are popping up across Virginia, and it’s no coincidence that they share the same name. “Black Is Beautiful,” a collaborative beer initiative by San Antonio’s Black-owned Weathered Souls Brewing Co., invites brewers to join in and help bring the community together. Hardywood, The Answer, Lickinghole Creek, The Veil, Starr Hill, Strangeways, and many more have taken their own spin on the recipe.
“It seemed like the perfect thing to participate in. It was entirely positive,” said Eric McKay at Hardywood. “It allowed us to use our passion, and what we love doing, to brew creative and interesting beers. We hoped in some ways [this collaboration] would be healing, and might help to bring our community together. I think that’s really important right now.”
Weathered Souls provided the artwork and recipe for the beer, which is intended to be a stout, to all breweries who wanted to participate.
Hardywood has chosen to donate all proceeds from the now-sold-out stout to the Virginia Black Restaurant Experience, a familiar event to Richmonders, which showcases Black chefs and their restaurants.
“A major cost of the event is advertising and promoting it,” said McKay. “Some [breweries] have chosen beneficiaries that are broader and more national. We felt that doing one a little closer to our own community would be more ideal.”
More than 30 brewers in Virginia have participated in the Black Is Beautiful collaboration.
“The sheer number of craft breweries that have engaged in this collaboration, specifically, is a good sign of the response and desire of Virginia’s breweries to make craft beer more inclusive,” said McKay. “It’s emphasized the need to broaden our customer base.”
Hardywood usually hosts an annual Heart and Soul Festival, which promotes soul food and music in Richmond.
“This past year, it was awarded a grant by the Brewers Association,” said McKay. “[The grant] is specific to promoting inclusivity in an industry that, admittedly, is not at all diverse, and could really improve from increased diversity.”
For their spin on the Black Is Beautiful Stout, Hardywood reached out to Candy Schibli, owner and founder of Southeastern Roastery in Baltimore. She recommended two coffee varietals to Hardywood, an Ethiopian and a Tanzanian, which she then custom-roasted and blended for the brewery. These two varietals add very pleasant notes of berry and apricot to the stout.
“We felt we could enhance the cause more by engaging a Black artisan who lives in the region, and showcase her passion,” said McKay.
Hardywood’s imperial stout is very heavy, rich, and slightly bitter. There are lots of dark chocolate notes present, and an underlying coffee character which is enhanced by the cold-press brewing that occurred when they ran the beer through the beans. Hardywood is currently sold out of the 10 percent ABV stout, although their distributor has some on its shelves. It’s also available at a few stores around Richmond (if you’re lucky enough to find it).
“The end result turned out really well,” said McKay. “The subtle berry and apricot notes really came through from the coffee.”
Another Richmond brewery, The Veil Brewing Co., also sold out of their Black Is Beautiful Stout. Justin Anderson, director of production at The Veil, said they added some adjuncts to it for their spin on the recipe.
“We added single-origin coffee donated by Blanchard’s Coffee, caramel, and maple syrup,” said Anderson. “Ours was 11 percent ABV, which is higher than the original recipe. We also blended it with some barrel-aged imperial stout we had.”
The Veil doesn’t usually get involved in political issues, but they felt that this was a good time to make an exception.
“This is the first time we’ve taken a political stance as a company,” said Anderson. “A lot of us felt that it was important to do so… We thought, ‘What’s going to be cool, and get people excited to support the cause?’”
The Veil is donating 100 percent of proceeds from sales of the Black Is Beautiful Stout to nonprofits in Richmond, although they are still in the process of choosing which one would be best. They want to align their donations with the intentions stated on the Weathered Souls Black Is Beautiful website, which describes the project as “a collaborative effort to raise awareness for the injustices people of color face daily and raise funds for police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.”
Anderson said the stout has a very roasty flavor from the coffee, which complements the intense maple and caramel flavors. Similar to Hardywood’s recipe, The Veil’s stout pairs very well with chocolate desserts, ice cream, or by itself as a digestif.
The Veil and Hardywood are just two of many breweries across the state and nation participating in the Black Is Beautiful brewing movement, raising funds and awareness for the daily injustices against people of color in America. Smartmouth Brewing Co. and O’Connor Brewing Co. in Norfolk have also participated, and the latter is donating all of their proceeds to the Urban League of Hampton Roads.
Craft beer has largely not been a diverse community in its time, and the Weathered Souls initiative has shed light on that. The movement hopes to bring change to the future of this scene, and with the recent funds raised, to bring positive change for people of color across the nation.