ALBION – Ben Wade carefully measured the sugar in a batch of coffee-colored beer that had been brewing for just 24 hours on Friday.
Inside the Albion Malleable Brewing Company, which he co-owns with Charles Moreau, Wade used a hydrometer to get a reading on the beer, noting there was “a little too much foam in it.”
The beer is an imperial stout expected to be end up in the 9% to 10% range for alcohol content. Unlike any other beer in the brewery, it was made with the help of Territorial Brewing Company of Springfield. Their aim was to make a beer as dark and delicious as possible.
It is expected to be ready for a late-July release at both Calhoun County breweries under the label, “Black is Beautiful.”
As part of an international collaborative among brewers, all proceeds from the sale of “Black is Beautiful” beer go to local foundations that “support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged” or “local organizations that support equality and inclusion.
“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 said. “Albion is about 30 percent black, and I was born and raised here, immersed in a diverse culture my whole life. 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 contacted Territorial Brewing co-owners Charles Grantier and Tim Davis, who were eager to collaborate for the project. The breweries combined resources to expedite the process at a time when both are navigating their businesses through the COVID-19 outbreak.
Davis said it was a company-wide decision to join the collaborative with the understanding that the brewery will take a financial hit.
“We talked about why we are doing it. While this is a political issue, we don’t understand why this is something that is political. It just seems like the right thing to be involved with,” Davis said. “Ultimately, we don’t want to be political, at the same time, 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.”
The project was launched by Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas. On Friday, the site blackisbeutiful.beer listed more than 900 participating breweries, including 21 in Michigan.
Territorial Brewing Co. said proceeds would be dispersed between Sisters in Business, the Lakeview School District African-American Liaison Office and the Color the Creek mural festival, which recently completed a Black Lives Matter mural in Battle Creek. Albion Malleable Brewing Co., which hangs a Black Lives Matter banner on the front of its building, will focus its proceeds to the Albion chapter of the NAACP.
Wade noted he and Moreau named their brewery after the Albion Malleable Iron Company as a nod to the city’s cultural roots.
“Our brewery name came from a factory here in Albion that recruited workers from all over the country, including the South, that helped make Albion a diverse community,” he said. “We wanted our name to be a celebration of the diversity of Albion. Because of that, we have a passion for equality. This is the right side to be on and we want to make it crystal clear what we stand for and where our heart is.”
Nick Buckley can be reached at email@example.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley
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