A local brewery is doing its part to stand up for racial injustice. Sunshine Brewery, 121 S. Main St., introduced the new Black is Beautiful beer, a collaborative effort, in partnership with Dead Bird Brewing in Milwaukee, to raise awareness for the injustices people of color face daily and to raise funds for police brutality reform.
The brewery has been open for a couple of years in the city and as a small business is taking a chance standing up for a cause after issues nationwide, statewide and locally here in Lake Mills. One hundred percent of the profits of the beer will be donated to Urban Triage of Madison, an organization with a mission to empower Black families and mobilize community resources for those in need.
“I had never thought much about racism at all,” said Lane Smith, owner Sunshine Brewery. “It was never something I thought was my problem, but my daughter Gracelyn, who is very active in social justice, we started talking and she really started to raise my awareness when she came to me and said she wanted to hold a protest.”
He encouraged his daughter to organize the event.
“I just started looking more and more at what is going on and I realized that apathy is no longer an option.”
Imagined by Weathered Souls Brewing, an independent craft brewery in Texas, the Black is Beautiful initiative is a collaborative effort amongst the brewing community and its customers to bring awareness to the injustices that many people of color face daily. The initiative started earlier this summer.
To Smith and his family racial justice does matter.
“We need to solve this problem, it’s been going on for hundreds of years,” he said. “When this Black is Beautiful beer came out I saw it was an opportunity we could do something. The brewing community is very collaborative already, so for us to get together as a national community and do something to help social justice, that’s something I really want to be a part of.”
The beer is an imperial stout, 10% ABV — 70 IBU — Smooth, strong Imperial Stout with roast, caramel, and dark chocolate flavors.
“Weathered Souls came up with the beer and published a recipe,” he said but every brewery does their own spin on it. “I’ve seen some folks add jalapeno peppers in it or Hersey’s in it. We’ve decided to keep fairly traditional with ours.”
The recipe came out in early summer, but Smith decided to wait until fall to release the dark beer.
“We took our time with it and decided to release it here in the fall.”
Smith has received messages of hate on their Facebook page from people who disagree with his release of the beer and support of racial justice initiatives.
“As a business owner there’s a big risk to getting involved in politics,” he said. “A person reached out and couldn’t believe I was brewing this beer and I was supporting Urban Triage,” he said. “This isn’t a political stance, it’s a social stance. It’s time to stand up for this.”
Smith said some of the issues locally stem from people’s denial that racism exists in the community.
“There’s a whole lot of people that think they are not racist,” he said. “They are determined to deny that racism exists. I think we are all a little bit racist, because that’s what systemic racism is.”
The brewery has been weathering the COVID storm pretty well over the last few months. Smith, who also does small business consulting, said they were focusing on online food and beer orders. They’ve now been able to open up their back and outdoor seating areas with social distancing and are still taking to go orders.