By Gregory Daurer | Mar 07, 2022
San Antonio, Texas
Not only does Baskerville believe Black Is Beautiful, so do his collaborators: close to 1,400 participating breweries across the United States, as well as within 22 foreign countries (including Switzerland, Japan, Nigeria, and Belize), who made a collaborative beer of the same name from the recipe he devised. All proceeds go towards "local organizations that support equality and inclusion," as well as curbing police brutality, says Weathered Souls' website.
Mobilized by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the initiative spread like wildfire on social media after Baskerville -- who operates one of two Black-owned breweries within the state of Texas -- first announced the project. Since 2020, the effort has raised $3.8 million for social justice organizations across the globe. And in terms of the brew's corporate reception, Baskerville notes how the Black Is Beautiful beer will be "going into 616 Walmarts stores," this year, which will be supplied to the chain by "12 different breweries across the country."
According to Baskerville, the beer matches the message: "You look at [imperial] stouts: they're bold, heavy, higher ABV, they create a statement. So, we felt that particular beer, in general -- and that style, in general -- kind of encompasses the initiative. Also, within the name: dark in chocolate, dark in color."
Stouts -- including barrel-aged ones -- are a specialty of Baskerville's. But stylistically, beers run the gamut at his San Antonio brewery, where one can find on tap at any given time lagers (including a popular helles), fruit-based sour beers, a blonde ale, pastry stouts, and IPAs (the West Coast IPA is among the brewery's top pours). "We brew beers across the board," says Baskerville. "We were the first brewery in the city to produce hazy IPAs. We were the first brewery in the city to do pastry stouts. We were the first brewery to do heavily-fruited sours."
Working within a brewhouse featuring "380 barrels' worth of tank space," Weathered Souls produced 1,850 barrels of beer last year. This year, Baskerville expects to make 3,000. The beer is sold in 16 states, as well as abroad in the United Kingdom, Germany, Korea, and China. In Texas, the beer can be found easily enough at stores like H-E-B, Trader Joe's, Walmart, and Target.
Baskerville grew up in Sacramento, California. He describes himself as coming from "a very tight, close-knit family," while adding how "I talk to my parents every day." But naturally he experienced social injustice himself: As a young man, he transported a stabbing victim from a fight at a party to the hospital. There, police detained him and he spent the night in jail without being "processed or formally charged," as an article about Baskerville within the San Antonio Current stated. If he had actually been unjustly arrested, there's a chance he might never have gotten the position that took him from Sacramento to San Antonio: working in fraud detection for Citibank.
In addition to his full-time bank job in San Antonio, Baskerville began working at Busted Sandal Brewing Co., where he became friends with brewery shareholder Mike Holt. "Mike is a no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point individual," says Baskerville. In 2016, they officially went into business together. Holt suggested the name Weathered Souls -- drawing upon the nautical term for people on a ship (the "souls" part), as well as the sense of having been seasoned by the elements.
Later this year, they'll be opening an additional brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina. "We thought it was about time to go ahead and expand to new territory," says Baskerville, who notes how Charlotte has "a great emerging craft beer scene."
The brewery will also be sponsoring an incubator program in Charlotte geared towards teaching women and minorities how to open their own breweries. Within the program, individuals from across the country will learn about malting, hops, yeasts, sustainability, marketing, and how to apply for SBA loans to get started. They'll also brew and package a beer for sale. "This is one of those situations where you're actually making tangible change within the brewing industry," says Baskerville.
"It has become my purpose to create a path, my purpose to be able to help other individuals like myself," he says.
Favorite beers: "I've definitely found inspiration from Jester King Brewery," says Baskerville. "That's one of my favorite breweries in Texas." Not only did founder Jeffrey Stuffings "help my growth as a brewer," says Baskerville, but Stuffings also suggested Baskerville turn Black Is Beautiful into a collaboration with other breweries at the dawn of the project.
Baskerville calls Russian River Brewing's Pliny the Elder "one of my favorite IPAs -- being a Northern California, West Coast guy, originally." He says it's a beer which "molded my direction."
And there are stouts, too: "I would probably say that my favorite barrel-aged beer would be Perennial Artisan Ales' Maman, which is just a very decadent, heavy, imperial barrel-aged stout with no adjuncts. I'm a huge fan of showcasing what barrels can do." When Baskerville first began drinking craft beer at Original Pete's in Roseville, California, he enjoyed the brown ale Firestone Walker made for the establishment; since then, he's been influenced their Parabola and Anniversary stouts.
Challenges: "Converting the majority of the city into craft beer drinkers," says Baskerville of San Antonio. "It's historically been a Dos Equis town."
Opportunities: "To continue pushing the message of diversity and inclusion in the brewing industry," says Baskerville. "We're one of, I think, 60 Black-owned breweries in the entire United States."
Needs: The big one is "continued growth" for the Weathered Souls brand, says Baskerville.