brewer-seeks-to-transform-weathered-souls-into-a-black-owned-brewery

Brewer Seeks To Transform Weathered Souls Into A Black-Owned Brewery

Marcus Baskerville, brewmaster and co-founder of James Beard-nominated craft brewery Weathered Souls, is seeking to hold on to the brand as fellow co-founder and majority partner Mike Holt looks to sell his stake.

Holt called his decision to sell “difficult and emotional,” but said the opportunities facing Weathered Souls to grow into an international brand exceed the time and energy he can devote to it.

“It’s time to let someone else join Marcus to take the reins,” said Holt, 60, who sold his home and moved with his wife into an RV to purchase equipment to launch the brewery in 2016.

Weathered Souls is now distributed in several U.S. states, along with Mexico, Japan and Europe. In 2022, the brewery opened a second taproom in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Holt and his wife are no longer living in the RV, and he said he’s looking forward to spending more time with her. “My wife has been a brewery widow for several years now.”

Baskerville, who is 38, first wowed Holt with his barrel-aged beer creations almost a decade ago. He’s now working to find new investors who will allow him to grow Weathered Souls as a Black-owned brewery.

“I’ve had some opportunities I can’t take advantage of because we’re not majority Black-owned,” he said. “One of them being working with Disneyland.”

But despite Baskerville’s high profile in the craft brewing industry, that goal could prove elusive. Out of nearly 10,000 craft brewers in the U.S., fewer than 1% are Black-owned.

Connecting Black brewers to capital

That fact propelled the recent creation of the National Black Brewers Association (NB2A), founded by former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who co-owns Oak Park Brewery in Sacramento (where he served as mayor from 2008 to 2016). Baskerville is a founding member and sits on the board of the new organization, whose goal is to promote, grow and advocate for Black brewers.

Celeste Beatty, who founded the Harlem Brewing Company in 2000 and remains one of very few Black women in the craft brewing community, is also a board member.

“We really appreciate all the work Marcus has done and is continuing to do through the Black is Beautiful campaign, supporting Black and brown communities, and now with Volume 2, supporting brewers,” she said.

Baskerville and Weathered Souls earned international recognition for launching Black is Beautiful in 2020 in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of police. Baskerville developed a stout recipe he shared for free to participating brewers, which they could choose to customize.

Ultimately, over 1,600 breweries in 28 countries participated, raising more than $5 million for social justice and anti-police brutality organizations. Local filmmaker Marco Ortega directed a short documentary on the campaign, and Hop Culture magazine named Weathered Souls one of the best craft breweries of 2020.

Marcus Baskerville started the Black is Beautiful campaign in 2020 as a way to contribute something positive in the wake of several police killings of Black Americans.

“Volume 2” of Black is Beautiful recently launched, this time with a shareable IPA recipe. Proceeds will benefit NB2A.

Helping brewers like Baskerville connect to capital is a major goal of the association, Beatty said. Part of the difficulty, she said, is that craft brewing is not seen as a typical Black investment.

“They see it as a growing thing, but not for us,” she said. “We have to have more conversations to help people understand, yes, you can be part of this. You can invest in breweries.”

‘The business side of things’

Baskerville, who also sits on the board of the Brewers Association, which serves small and independent craft brewers, said he’s taking advantage of his membership in both organizations to network and learn more about certain aspects of the business he had not previously paid as much attention to.

Holt’s support and partnership allowed him to focus on brewing beer, which Baskerville said is his favorite part of the job. “But I probably should have engulfed myself more in the business side of things,” he said. “I am familiar with the fact that there are a lot of things I need to learn.”

With new partners, Baskerville would like to focus more on the food served in the taproom. In 2021, Texas Monthly praised Weathered Souls’ partnership with Andrew Samia’s South BBQ, but that association has since ended.

He’s also interested in redesigning the taproom itself, which he called “a little dull for my personality,” and perhaps even adding a cocktail program.

Baskerville expressed gratitude for Holt’s partnership and said making sure he is “taken care of” through the sale is a priority for him. But he’s not interested in partnering with just anyone.

“I very much am the brand, so I want to put myself in a situation where I’m happy,” he said. And if that doesn’t work out, “I’ll sell my equity too and go do my own thing.”

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