On Wednesday, June 4, Right Proper announced #SayTheirNames, a Kellerbier, donating 100% of the proceeds to Black Lives Matter DC. The bottled beer sold out quickly online, but growler fills are available; the beer is on tap at both Brookland and Shaw. Here’s how it came to be.
“We had a small batch of a new beer almost ready for release at the brewpub. While waiting on the beer to carbonate, we were able to think about packaging rather than just rely on draft beer sales,” notes Thor Cheston, co-founder and co-owner. “Given the restrictions of Phase One re-opening, we looked at all of our available resources and decided on 750ml bottles of which we had twelve cases in stock… On Saturday, after talking to a number of our staff members about how Right Proper should respond as a company to the growing movement in support of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we took a suggestion from one of our staff members, Eamoni Collier, that we rename a beer #SayTheirNames.”
Collier, also a musician who records as The Vibe Queen, made two beers at the brewpub previously, including Strawberry High, which shares a name with her first single, in May 2019. At the start of March her second beer, Amethyst Drip, was released. It’s a Belgian-Style Pale Ale with black currants and a black tea blend from Calabash Tea called Desert Rose, featuring rose water, rose petals, and ginger. The beer was named after her second single, now streaming on music platforms.
“I came up with this idea after seeing the video of George Floyd being murdered,” says Collier. “It became more urgent to me to help find a way to broaden the conversation. My goal became to help raise awareness and funds to support the community in its fight for social and racial justice. In doing so I wanted to challenge other breweries that receive the support of the Black community, to speak up and make a statement that they support us in this fight against racial inequality. I also wanted to encourage and inspire other people to speak up, share their stories. And demand change!”
Packaging the beer on a tight timeline proved difficult. “While Friday seemed like a safe estimate for release, the beer was actually pretty slow to carbonate and not finished and kegged until Friday morning at 8am. Leah (Cheston, also co-owner) and I worked on the label design which was finished on Thursday,” notes Thor Cheston.
“The large format label would allow us to make a stronger statement as well. Knowing with a limit of one hundred and forty-four bottles it would sell out quickly, we set a limit of one bottle per person. This was difficult to manage since none of our online sales platforms allow us to set sales quantity maximums… The marketing photos are not actually of STN. We had to use a different bottle of beer with the STN labels since the actual beer was not finished. Knowing we wanted the beer to go out on Friday, we started selling online after we closed for business on Thursday. We were very nervous about selling a beer that was not yet bottled, so we only released 72 bottles online. Those bottles sold out in 40 minutes. We then released another 72 bottles early afternoon on Friday which sold out in an hour.”
All of this has come at a financial cost for Right Proper, which, like many area breweries, is struggling with the twin pandemics of racism and COVID-19, but it pales in comparison to those who’ve lost their lives to police violence. “As for how much money we have raised, we have not calculated that yet since we are still selling the beer on draft in pints to go as well as growler fills,” says Cheston. “Once all the draft beer is sold we will have the final tally [All proceeds from bottles, draft, and growler sales will be donated to DMV Black Lives Matter]. People are asking us how we decided to donate money while we are trying to recover from the tremendous financial hit brought on by the COVID-19 shutdown. We were initially thinking we could only spare a small amount of the profits, but we felt like that would not be enough impact given the need for support right now. We decided as long as we could cover the costs of the beer, we could make it work. We are very much in survival mode right now so we hope to do more in the future as we get our financial footing back.”
While bottles of the beer are sold out, there are other ways to give back to the community beyond pints. “There are many ways to combat racism,” notes Collier. “I encourage people to research and find out about ways to take action beyond social media. I encourage everyone who wants to see change to start within themselves, have honest conversations with their friends and family members who still deny racism exists, and most importantly not to be afraid to speak up!”
This article was co-written by Mike Stein and Jake Berg