Brewing Up Justice: Minneapolis Craft Beers That Embrace Diversity

Broken Clock Brewing and Brewing Change Collaborative have united to promote racial equity in the brewing industry
The Messenger series beers: the Imperial Porter (top) and the DDH Gose (bottom cans)

Sam Colenso, Broken Clock Brewing Company

Broken Clock Brewing Company and Brewing Change Collaborative have teamed up to create “The Messenger,” a series of beers to highlight forgotten cultural histories in the United States.

“It’s telling the unknown and forgotten, or intentionally forgotten, or put-aside, stories of BIPOC history,” says Elle Rhodes, Brewing Change Collaborative (BCC) cofounder and director.

BCC is a nonprofit organization focused on fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion for people of color in the brewing and beverage industry. BCC started its partnership with Broken Clock Brewing, a 100% member-owned brewing cooperative, in July of 2020.

On Saturday, July 24, Broken Clock’s taproom in northeast Minneapolis hosts The Messenger series release party. Along with the beers, the release party will feature BIPOC-owned food trucks, BIPOC vendors such as Gus Dean coffee, and live music from BIPOC DJs.

“It’s basically a big community hang with great beer and being able to support and learn about the people that are here, being able to support the vendors that are here, and being able to learn the stories behind The Messenger,” Rhodes says.

The Messenger Volume I: Imperial Porter

The beer series is named after the political and literary magazine The Messenger, founded in the early 20th century by African American labor activist A. Philip Randolph. The first beer of the series, Imperial Porter, depicts Randolph on its label artwork.

“[Volume I] is a porter, and it’s imperial, so it’s a bigger, heavier beer,” says Vicki Epper, a Broken Clock board member. The beer gets its flavor from cardamom, chicory root evokes a coffee-like flavor, and it was aged in whiskey barrels.

“We also made an intention to include elements and ingredients that are from BIPOC cultures,” Rhodes says. “So far it’s been African American cultures.”

The Messenger Volume II: DDH Gose

The series’ second beer, DDH Gose, highlights the stories of three African American women—Ida B. Wells, Lena O. Smith, and Esther Jones—on three separate cans. At the release party for the series, there will be flyers featuring the stories of each person, written in newspaper style to emulate The Messenger magazine.

The DDH Gose is a significantly lighter beer, a double dry hop gose with blends of tamarind, pineapple, and guava. “It’s a delicious beer, especially for warm weather,” Rhodes says.

A Growing Partnership

Both Rhodes and Epper emphasize that BCC and Broken Clock’s partnership is about much more than just the beer. While BCC has been contacted by many breweries for partnerships, not many have had a plan for how they want to help the cause beyond simply brewing a beer with them. Broken Clock, however, has been “exactly the opposite” in terms of committing to the cause of promoting diversity and racial equity in the brewing industry.

“We don’t have all the answers, but we need someone on the outside to hold us accountable and say, ‘No, you think you have it right, but you don’t,’” Epper says. “And so for how I see it in this partnership is looking at, how do we not just say ‘We welcome everyone,’ but what can we actually do to be welcoming?”

Epper helped Broken Clock form a racial equity committee in August of 2020, and made a point to give a board seat to a member of BCC. Epper says that this is a now a permanent seat on Broken Clock’s board. While Broken Clock is predominately white in its current membership, Epper says that they want to try and do a better job of representing the Twin Cities community.

“They’re continuing to want to do that work, continuing to want to work with us, and not just brew a beer and move beyond that,” Rhodes says. “It’s brewing a beer with education, educating ourselves, educating the people around us and the community, and continuing to make change. And there are not even a handful of other breweries who are the same at this point.”

Rhodes emphasizes that all people of color are welcome to join BCC, not just those who work in the brewing and beverage industry. “You don’t even frankly have to drink to be a part of the group,” she says.

The release party for the series on Saturday, July 24, from 2-10 p.m. at the Broken Clock taproom in northeast Minneapolis. More information is available on BCC’s Facebook page.

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