California 'Black is beautiful' beer inspires delicious dark brew and raises social awareness

Beer makers in the Bay Area aren't just mixing malts this week. They're also crafting a message.

Nineteen craft breweries in the region have joined the nationwide "Black is Beautiful" beer initiative. It has grown from one brewer's call for social justice into an international movement.

The idea came from Marcus Baskerville, a Sacramento native, turned Texas brewmaster. He owns Weathered Souls Brewery in San Antonio and wanted to find a way to fight for social justice amidst the protests over George Floyd's death.

"For me, it kind of weighed heavily as a proud black man and a father...that need to do something," said Baskerville.

Being a brewmaster, Baskerville did what he knows best. He crafted a dark imperial stout with the label "Black is Beautiful."

"Originally, I was just going to just do a beer release named Black is Beautiful and release it locally and donate the money locally," said Baskerville.

A friend challenged him to think bigger, so Baskerville created the website Black is Beautiful Beer and posted the label, along with his own recipe for a dark imperial stout. He invited other craft brewers to follow the recipe or create their own dark beer and use the label to spread awareness about racial issues and social justice. He also asked breweries to donate 100% of proceeds from the beer and form relationships with local non-profits that serve minorities.

The idea took off, with more than 900 breweries in all 50 states and 17 countries now taking up the cause.

"I definitely did not think it was going to be as big as it is," said Baskerville. "It's literally 900-plus businesses that are involving themselves in social justice."

"The beer is actually just the first step," said Baskerville, "The overall goal of this initiative is...basically to raise create dialogue and conversation."

"Releasing this beer is going to create conversation...for people to be able to sit here and discuss race and come up with some kind of commonality with each other," said Baskerville.

Bay Area participants include Speakeasy, a black-owned San Francisco brewery, and other breweries started by minorities.

On Monday at Del Cielo Brewing Company in Martinez, the owner and brewer Luis Castro spent the day canning 80 cases of beer as well as filling a number of kegs with beer made from Baskerville's recipe,

"This is one of the cool things about the beer industry. We try to support each other," said Castro, "As a Colombian and being a minority in California, we want to be able to support them.".

Calicraft Brewery in Walnut Creek has been serving up its own version of a "Black is Beautiful" brew since June 18th.

"Ours is a black IPA, so that's an IPA normally brewed with dark malt, but we did ours just with coffee with our friends at Rooted, another local business, and chocolate," said Thomas Vo, the Calicraft brewmaster.

Baskerville's cause is also close to the Vo's heart.

"I'm not your traditional brewer. I come from Vietnamese refugee parents," said Vo.

The brewmasters understand that they're just making beer. They hope, though, that raising a beer can also raise awareness.

"There are these problems and together we really can have a voice and can make change," said Vo.

"It's been crazy as far as the reception has been. It's been a very humbling experience for sure," said Baskerville.

If you're interested, here's a map of participating breweries. 

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter