Last summer, in the midst of protests following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, the craft brewing world came together to produce a beer that would soon become one of the most successful and popular collaboration beers ever.
Black is Beautiful, an Imperial Stout, is the creation of Weathered Souls Brewing Founder and Head Brewer Marcus Baskerville.
“Our mission is to bridge the gap that’s been around for ages and provide a platform to show that the brewing community is an inclusive place for everyone of any color,” says Baskerville in a statement on the Black is Beautiful website.
Baskerville’s original plan was simply to produce the beer with a cause for his own brewery in San Antonio, Texas. But the idea quickly caught fire, and once he released the recipe and invited others to brew it, more than 200 breweries joined on the first day.
One year later, 1,221 breweries in all 50 states and 22 countries have participated in the project, including three Montana breweries: Burnt Tree in Ennis, Mountains Walking in Bozeman and Philipsburg Brewing Company in Philipsburg.
“As a brewer of color, it meant a lot to be able to participate in Weathered Souls’ Black is Beautiful initiative to help fight racial injustice,” says Ben Johnson, Lead Brewer & Head of Recipe Development at Philipsburg Brewing Company. “I layered on flavor and meaning to their base Imperial Stout recipe by adding dark chocolate from our friends at the Sweet Palace, black strap molasses to represent the Triangle Trade and strawberries to represent the blood shed of slavery, which is a Juneteenth tradition. The beer came out great and was well received in the taproom.”
The addition of local flavor and inspiration in Johnson’s version of Black is Beautiful is in keeping with the vision for the beer. The recipe is for an Imperial Stout at 10% ABV, but Baskerville encourages other brewers to “place your own spin and love into this.”
Burnt Tree Brewing similarly added their own local flavor, aging some of the beer in bourbon barrels from their Ennis neighbors at Willie’s Distillery. Burnt Tree Manager Amy Kelley says that they first released the beer last winter, but then aged some in bourbon barrels and had it ready to release at the Tap Into Ennis Brew and Spirit Festival in June.
Burnt Tree also held a meet and greet with the Montana Racial Equality Project, a nonprofit based in Bozeman that “advocates for equity and justice for historically marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed peoples in Montana.” Both Philipsburg and Burnt Tree donated the proceeds from the sale of Black is Beautiful to the Montana Racial Equality Project.
The collaboration is still going, and more brewers are encouraged to take part. Those participating are asked to:
For more information, including the recipe, graphics, and background, go to blackisbeautiful.beer.
Craft beer has always been about community, and that’s never been truer than at Ronan Cooperative Brewery. More than 400 members each own a piece of Montana’s first cooperative brewery in a town of just 2,000 people.
The dream came from local residents participating in a public interest study by Mission West Community Development Partners with the ultimate goal of downtown revitalization, where locals indicated they’d be interested in investing in a brewery. They formed a steering committee to research the feasibility and write a business plan, and in February of 2018 incorporated and elected a board of directors.
Mission West is a regional economic development organization serving Lake, Sanders and Mineral Counties with the aim of creating sustainable, local economic development. The dream of a local brewery in Ronan made for a perfect match with Mission West’s mission to support local economic development.
After four years of dreaming and planning, the brewery opened last September. Needless to say, that also happened to be in the middle of a pandemic, a time of uncertainty when not many people were opening a new business. Beer lovers in Ronan were undeterred, and when the brewery first opened it was a celebration for the entire community.
“People’s expectation of downtown has come to be more centered around an experience than buying a product. That good feeling is the product. It’s knowing that you’re contributing to a sustainable economy,” says Myers.
In the case of Ronan Cooperative Brewery, that good feeling comes along with good beer. Their most popular beer is the Forbidden City Amber, a Düsseldorf-style ale or Altbier. They also brew their Spring Creek Kölsch, offering two crisp, clean, and true-to-style German beers that are perfect for a hot day (or any other day you happen to be thirsty).
Members pay $250 for an ownership share in the brewery. While interest and dividends won’t be paid out to members until the brewery is profitable, members do receive discounts on pints and growler fills. The immediate dividends are tastier and more refreshing than any cash payout.
As a cooperative with more than 400 member/owners, Ronan Cooperative Brewery may just have more owners than all other Montana breweries combined. That can lead to complications when navigating state and federal requirements due to the complex ownership structure that is inherent in a co-op. But Ronan Cooperative Brewery’s 400-plus owners and nine-person board have already blazed that trail, making it easier for the next small town that wants to launch a cooperative brewery.
Myers thinks the brewery can be a source of inspiration and positive change for Ronan and beyond.
“It gets people to think about what they can do to contribute to the economic sustainability of their local community,” says Myers.
Next time you’re in the area, check out the beers at this trailblazing brewery in the beautiful Mission Valley. You’re likely to end up sitting next to one of the owners sipping on the proceeds of their investment.
Montana recently crossed the 100 breweries milestone. Despite the pandemic, several breweries opened their doors over the past year. As the industry continues to grow, so does the MBA. Please join us in welcoming our newest members, and congratulations to those who recently joined Montana’s thriving craft brewing scene.
Located in the heart of downtown Missoula between Front and Main Streets, Cranky Sam opened in Spring of 2020. During renovations to the historic building in which they are located, they uncovered incredible artifacts dating back over 100 years.
Cymatic Fermentation Project is one of Montana’s newest breweries, launching in June 2021. Located in Missoula, Cymatic produces both beer and hard seltzers and are committed to making their customers’ craft beverage experience a great one.
Deppen Beer (Brewery in Planning)
Planned opening: July 2022
Great Burn Brewing recently rejoined the MBA. Established in 2013, Great Burn produces hand-crafted ales and one hard seltzer on a small batch system (10 barrel) and their taproom serves as a popular neighborhood gathering space on Missoula’s south end of town.
Located in Sheridan, in the Ruby Valley at the front steps of the Tobacco Roots, Ruby Valley Brew is a gathering spot for locals and travelers alike. With beer now in cans and an expansion in the works, they’re four years old and growing fast.
Shred Monk Brewing – (Brewery in Planning)
Planned opening: October 2021
After nearly two years away, the Montana Brewers Summer Rendezvous in Helena is our most anticipated event ever. The event, featuring 80 beers from 27 Montana breweries and music from the Grateful Dead tribute band 710 Ashbury, will take place on Saturday, August 14, in Helena’s Memorial Park. It will be followed by the Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous in Bozeman on September 24.
The Summer Rendezvous in Helena will once again take place in conjunction with Bike Helena’s Shuttle Fest, which takes place over three days, August 13-15, with free bike shuttles to Helena’s best singletrack.
“We’re excited to partner with Bike Helena again,” says Montana Brewers Association Executive Director Matt Leow. “Brewers plan to meet up the day before the Summer Rendezvous to go for a ride together. You can’t beat spending quality time riding with old friends and then catching up over beers. After all this time apart, it will be extra special this year.”
Two things set MBA events apart from other brewfests in the state – we serve exclusively Montana craft beer, and it truly is a rendezvous for brewers from across the state. Beer samples are included with the price of admission, so guests don’t need to wait in line to purchase beer tickets or tokens.
The event will once again include a Beer School session, offering an opportunity for beer lovers to learn about ingredients, styles and the brewing process. This year’s Beer School will be structured as a single session, taking place at 4:30 pm, and focusing on Hazy IPAs. Those interested should arrive to the Rendezvous early and meet up at the Beer School tent, located on the south end of the event grounds.
Ticket prices for both Rendezvous are as follows:
Limited Presale: $25 GA / $35 VIP
Advance Sale: $30 GA / $40 VIP
Day of the Event $35 GA / $45 VIP
Tickets for the Summer Rendezvous are on sale now. Tickets for the Fall Rendezvous will go on sale August 9, with a limited presale through August 15. For tickets and more information on both brewfests, go to montanabrewers.org/events.