This weekend Hellbender Brewing Company will release a second collaboration with Tim Bryson. We covered the first, Amplify Black Voices, when it was released in August. Michael Stein sat down with Hellbender’s co-founder and owner Ben Evans to discuss the latest release.
MS: How did the beer, Support Black Businesses, come to be?
BE: Tim Bryson approached us in early December about doing another collaboration that we could release during Black History Month, so we got together to brainstorm. The plan became to work with local Black-owned restaurants for this project. We quickly decided that we wanted a beer that would pair well with food if we were doing something with restaurants. Tim’s Instagram handle is “TheIPAWay“, and he generally prefers hop-forward beers, but he really likes our Belgian blonde ale, “Heart of Glass.” I suggested Trappist-style triple as a bigger version of the blonde and because it pairs well with so many different dishes. The goal was to highlight about 4-5 Black-owned restaurants in DC, but the problem was that splitting up the proceeds from the beer would not amount to much money for those restaurants, and we have been struggling pretty badly during COVID ourselves. The solution we came up with was to have a QR code on the can that would take you to a web page that highlighted these businesses and provided links to order pickup or takeout from their establishments. We also decided to turn the four-packs of the beer into a type of hidden prize by randomly putting $100 gift certificates in 12 of the four-packs under the pack holders. Even if you don’t win, we will be providing food pairings for each of the restaurants that would go well with the beer. That way, customers are encouraged to enjoy the beer at home with a pairing from one of these restaurants, [Editor’s note: which are Roaming Rooster, Puddin’, Urban Charcuterie, and Urban Chef’s Table, chosen by Grace, aka JustSeasonedWell].
MS: What is your purpose with this new beer and how does the production of the beer help you achieve your goals?
BE: As a production brewery, we work closely with numerous local restaurants by providing them with beer for their establishments. The entire industry is in desperate need of help right now. The simple goal of this beer is to highlight some of the excellent and diverse Black-owned restaurants here in DC. We hope that this encourages people to support these Black-owned businesses, but we also hope that people will seek out and support other Black-owned businesses in the area.
MS: Why brew an entirely new beer instead of another batch of Amplify Black Voices?
BE: This beer was brewed for a different goal than “Amplify Black Voices.” Simply recycling the same recipe for such a different project would go against what we stand for as a craft brewery, and it would do injustice to the hard work of our partnering businesses whose food we intend to pair the beer with.
The goals of these two beers were very different.
The goal of “Amplify Black Voices” was to raise money for a local business that mentors lower income minority students. We wanted to make a beer that was different from the rest of our beer at the time, but also something that would be popular and sell quickly. The conclusion was to brew a hazy pale ale. The beer was very well received at the brewery, and the entire batch sold out in about two days.
The goal of “Support Black Businesses” is to highlight Black-owned restaurants. Pale ales do not tend to pair as well with a wide array of foods as many Belgian-style beers. We decided to brew a Trappist-style triple because it would pair well with the cuisine of the restaurants we were partnering with.
MS: What should we know about Hellbender’s active commitment towards social justice and racial equity?
BE: Education is at the heart of who we are and what we do. We recognize our privileged social identities and choose to use our power to advocate for better business. We will continue to push against systems that disproportionately distribute resources to historically marginalized communities and Black businesses. “Amplify Black Voices” was our first step, “Support Black Businesses” is our next one. We understand that social justice and racial equity will happen over time, not overnight – but we can’t do this work alone. We appreciate Tim’s leadership and invite all of our community members and local breweries to walk with us in this fight towards a just future.
Support Black Businesses will be available at Hellbender on Sunday, February 14, both in cans and on draft, starting at 1pm. Pre-ordering is an option. They’ll be joined by one of the aforementioned Black-owned restaurants, Puddin’.