Marcus began brewing with a cheap home brewing kit. It spawned a passion for brewing that found him in San Antonio opening Weathered Souls Brewing Co. As if that wasn’t enough, he started the Black is Beautiful initiative that was joined by over 1200 breweries around the world. It raised money and awareness for social justice causes.
Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos San Antonio, welcome to the Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places and passions that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, proud San Antonian and keeper of chickens and bees. On the Alamo Hour, you’ll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best kept secret in Texas. We’re glad that you’re here.
Welcome to the Alamo Hour. Today’s guest is Marcus Baskerville. Marcus is the brewer and co-founder of Weathered Souls Brewing right here in San Antonio. As if the story about all the inventive beers is not impressive enough, you spearheaded and created what turned into a international movement called the Black Is Beautiful Movement, which ended up including 1200 breweries across 22 countries and for us Texans, 122 participating breweries just here in Texas. I’m really excited to meet you and chat with you and thank you for doing this Marcus.
Marcus Baskerville: Yes, no problem. Thank you for having me.
Justin: You are in your yeast lab is what I think I heard you say a second ago.
Marcus: No, office used to be my use lab. Now I’m in my crate office.
Justin: [laughs] When you grow a business, you grow where you can grow.
Marcus: Exactly. [crosstalk].
Justin: We do all these similar. I want to ask you a few questions, get to know you a little bit, talk to you about San Antonio. I know some of the answers because I did some research beforehand, but when and what brought you to San Antonio?
Marcus: I moved to San Antonio almost eight years ago, I think June will be eight years. What brought me to San Antonio was actually a promotion. I used to be in fraud prevention dealing with banking. I came out here to train some new employees as they moved to corporate office from Sacramento to San Antonio. In the process of that, ended up getting a little promotion and decided to stay.
Justin: Born and raised in Sacramento, right?
Justin: You moved here eight years ago. How have you liked it so far?
Marcus: I’ve enjoyed it. I’m still here, right?
Justin: I mean, the weather is very different than Sacramento.
Marcus: Weather is this huge difference. That’s what keeps my family from coming too often. They’re like, “Oh, your guys’ weather is so sporadic.” Outside of that and the occasional bad drivers, I’ve really enjoyed San Antonio.
Justin: You haven’t been here all that long. Eight years is a while, but what are some of your favorite hidden places in San Antonio, hidden gems, places that when you moved here, nobody really told you about and then when you found them, you thought, “Wow, how did I not know about this?” For me the Botanical and the Japanese Tea Gardens are two of those things that when I finally went there, I thought, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” Do you have any places like that here?
Marcus: That would definitely be one of them. I actually just went to that recently with my children a couple of months ago. That was the first time I had been. I was like, “Wow, this is a beautiful place. I wish I’d known about this years ago.|
Justin: You wouldn’t even know when you’re hear.
Marcus: Yes, exactly. Then outside of that, one of the things originally when I first moved here was the Pearl. I really enjoyed Pearl area just to be outside and that type of thing. Nobody really put me onto the Pearl back in the day and outside of that really, some of the like different trails and hiking, different things like that. I like to try to get outdoors, I’m always inside all the time. When I do have the opportunity to get outside, I like to [unintelligible 00:03:44].
Justin: The hiking and all those options–
Marcus: To get a little bit of sunshine in my life.
Justin: Those have improved a lot since the time you’ve been here. When I first moved here– I haven’t been here that much longer, but the mission trail South and all that stuff, wasn’t even an option back then. I read about your really big obsession into homebrewing, how you came up in the brewing world. One of the things was you were very passionate about it, very focused about it. Do you have any odd hobbies outside of brewing?
Marcus: [chuckles] Bourbon collecting has become a new hobby for me. I got into bourbon about three years ago. Then that’s transitioned into other things. I’ve been on a quest to make the perfect Old Fashion. That’s something that I do at home. I’ve changed my ices from the sphere, and now I have the cubes and been working with different oranges, different bitters and different whiskey combinations.
That’s turned into a little hobby for me even reading on the history of old fashions, but definitely the whole bourbon thing. Outside of that. I mean beer evolves most of my life. When I do have the opportunity to get out of here, it’s mostly spending time with the kids and making sure that they get their daddy time in.
Justin: Do you boil your water before you make ice?
Marcus: No. I actually have ice molds that produce clear ice.
Justin: All right. Have you done any of the Fiesta events? Do you have a favorite event?
Marcus: I’ve only been to Fiesta once. I am very much the introvert despite the fact that I’ve had to do a lot of talking as of the last year. Those large, huge groups if there’s people around make me very nervous.
Justin: I’m not a big fan of the really big events.
Marcus: I’ve been to Fiesta once.
Justin: There’s a lot of small events too you should check it out.
Marcus: I know I did– I can’t even remember the name of which one I went to. I don’t remember, but it was when parents came to town and we ended up going out and enjoying Fiesta, but it’s a lot of people. Even then you look at many people. Generally, if I’m doing stuff, it’s in the smaller crowd, small crowd room where I can count the number of people.
Justin: I appreciate that. What is your favorite beer to drink just every day? What would be your go-to beer style?
Marcus: My favorite to-style would definitely be probably a Pilsner. Also in that room’s definitely West Coast IPA. I’m a huge West Coast IPA fan, just because that’s where I came from basically. One of the first styles that I got into, gravitated towards when I actually got into the beer scene. Generally, if I am going to have a beer, it’s going to be something on the lighter spectrum. Something lighter, so it’s not as heavy on your stomach or you got more than one of them. Generally it’s a lager or a West Coast [unintelligible 00:07:06].
Justin: Y’all do some hard ciders as well. Are you planning on or are you interested in branching out into other fermented alcoholic drinks?
Marcus: At the moment, no. I have gotten a steal recently, so I do want to get into the realm of doing my own whiskey and bourbon. It’s made me nervous. I need to have somebody come over and assist me. The whole blowing up my garage thing has made me nervous. I’ll wait until the expert has some extra time to come by the house. I have a few people in mind and we’ll test it out and see what we can come up with.
The way that I am when it comes to when I get into interest of things, like I get full blown into it. Even with the [unintelligible 00:07:58] I’m going to make sure that I can either source me in a white American Oak barrel, or I even want to go ahead and try my own barrel, but when the time comes, we’ll figure it out. I want to evolve into the whole experience of creating my own whiskey or bourbon. When I do get some additional time, we’ll go ahead and experiment with that a little bit [inaudible 00:08:19].
Justin: Is a barrel maker called a cooper? Is that what [crosstalk].
Marcus: Cooper. Yes, I guess with the [inaudible 00:08:31] I think so.
Justin: Do we have any coopers in San Antonio?
Marcus: I don’t want to make barrels. I don’t think so. I know there obviously has to be someone in Texas with all the distilleries that are popping up in the state of Texas, but I’ve never heard of one in San Antonio.
Justin: I had a boy in from Dortch Alon, they started as a distiller and then they got into brewing. His still has its own interesting story to coming over from Serbia.
Marcus: I didn’t know he was from Serbia.
Justin: They bring in nectarines or gosh, I feel bad that I can’t remember. Not peaches. Apricots. They bring in apricots from Serbia, still for their Rockier. It’s interesting.
Marcus: I haven’t been to [unintelligible 00:09:27] since COVID. Maybe I have to go by and check them out. You have a little cocktail.
Justin: He’s got a really interesting family history behind the [unintelligible 00:09:36] and the rockier and all of that stuff. I think he even got stopped by the feds bringing in rockier. Basically, he got arrested for bootlegging when he was 12. He’s got an interesting story about that.
Marcus: I’ll have to pick his brain about that one day.
Justin: You’ve gotten into old fashions, what’s the perfect old fashion right now?
Marcus: My favorite to make right now is a mocha old fashion. I ended up creating a coffee bitters– Well, excuse me, a coffee [inaudible 00:10:12] a little bit of chocolate whiskey, and then obviously orange. I like the dry mandarin oranges from Trader Joe’s, those are really good. Yes, those are really good.
Justin: I have an orange tree that was just gangbusters for years, but I think the freeze probably wiped it out, which is pretty unfortunate because it was probably 12 feet tall. It was a big old naval orange tree.
Marcus: Oh, man.
Justin: Let’s talk about it. You got into homebrewing in the way that a lot of people thought they were going to at some point. I even had that Mr. Homebrew kit or whatever it was called and that’s how you got into it, right?
Marcus: [chuckles] Yes. My brother had got a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas from my sister, and he had root brew it beer in it, it was horrible. Mr. Beer kits don’t make the beer as it is, but it was one of those things where it was like, “I can make a better beer than you.” We actually ended up doing our first couple of beers together, and then I ended up moving to San Antonio about a year later.
When I moved out here, obviously I didn’t know anybody, was really more focused on work and that type of thing, and so I ended up homebrewing here in San Antonio. At some point, I ended up getting in a car accident within the first couple of months that I moved here and I took the money that I got from the accident and upgraded my homebrewer with it. From there, did a couple of beers here and there and nothing ever really hit, nothing was ever really that good.
At some point, I actually almost quit homebrewing, and then somebody ended up talking to me and saying, “No, you’ve invested all this money within homebrewing. You need to go ahead and keep at it, see what happens.” I actually remembered the catalyst point of when I made my first good beer and it was listening to a brewing network podcast that had Annie Johnson on it.
Annie Johnson was 2013 homebrewer of the year. In the conversation, she had talked about dealing with not drinking while you’re brewing, certain little processes and practices that she implemented into her [unintelligible 00:12:40] that brought her success. Being that she was the first woman home brewer of the year, she was also the first black person that has achieved homebrewer of the year, and she was also from Sacramento where I’m originally from.
You see that where it’s like, you see somebody has reached the pinnacle and you look at them, they look like you and it’s like, “Okay, I can do this too.” The next beer I ended up doing was a robust porter, and I want to say that it was actually a heretic clone for [unintelligible 00:13:15] and it was from a more beer kit that came and mind you I made some little adjustments here and there just because that’s the person that I am, and that was actually the first good beer that I made.
That recipe has changed over the course of time, and it’s now one of our staples in the taproom, which is around about midnight.
Justin: What year would this have been?
Marcus: That’s 2013.
Justin: I was reading a bunch of interviews with you and one thing that really stood out to me, which made me think of Malcolm Gladwell’s books about how do you become really good at something that you want to be good at. They talk about the 10,000 hour rule and all that, but while you were in Sacramento, you went and even volunteered at breweries, if I read that correctly.
Marcus: Yes. I actually just got the 10 times rule book yesterday.
Marcus: I started diving into that last night.
Justin: That wasn’t your job, that was your passion, but you went and just volunteered your time to learn more.
Marcus: Yes. Once I started making some good beer, I started bringing beer to local restaurants, bars, breweries, and that type of thing. From there, I had brought my beer to a local brewery here, they enjoyed what I ended up bringing and offered, “You have a tap take over.” I ended up having a tap take over in my beer that the home brew actually sold more than what their standard beer was in their taproom.
I didn’t really volunteer too much outside of just going to hang out and watching what’s going on. They ended up offering me a job, and I ended up taking an assistant brewer job on top of working full-time, 50 plus hours at the bank as a manager. I worked at this brewery for about a year, learning the do’s and don’ts, things that you should do brewing, some not so good practices, that type of thing.
From there, I grew unhappy. I wanted to be able to experiment more, and create my own recipes and brew my own beer. Mind you in the standard brewing setting, I mean, that’s standard. You go to a brewery and you’re an assistant brewer, you’re not brewing your own recipes and you’re doing whatever needs to be done. That was fine at the time, but for me, it was a part-time job.
It wasn’t like I had to have this job on top of I’m making great beer at home. If I don’t work here, then it’s not going to end all for me. Being said, I ended up leaving and continued making my own beer, that different types of things. Had another tap takeover at a local bar. They’re no longer here, but it was Missions untapped, a wonderful place. It was a little dive bar off Broadway. Well, not really a dive bar, but craft beer bar.
I guess I can add to the list of place that people didn’t tell me about that I enjoyed. Had a tap take over there, and it went fantastic. I think I had four beers on tap and all four of them tapped out. These are [unintelligible 00:16:24], so five gallon slims. Me and my current business partner, used to hang out, have a couple of drinks at that local place. One day we were out drinking and I was like, “Mike, when are we going to open a brewery?” He looked at me and he goes, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me that.” We literally started working on the business plan a couple of days later.
Justin: Awesome. You talked about these tap takeovers. I remember whenever you were doing it, but I didn’t know it was you at the time, because there was a big buzz on social media about it. Talk to me about sort of how those opportunities really just– That has to just catapult your trajectory, in sort of an unforeseen way, right?
Marcus: It definitely helped out within the local craft beer community, because they introduced me to a lot of people that didn’t really know about me or beers that I was producing. Even before we had the brewery opening, pretty much that garnered a following for some of the beers that I was producing, and some of the fun stuff that was going on. On top of being in a couple of tap takeovers, I had won a couple of local homebrew awards, and a couple of little local homebrew competitions and stuff like that.
Some people knew about the beers that we were producing. I mean, literally when we started going into creating the brewery, we started hosting sensory panels and stuff like that, to get feedback for some of the beers we were doing, what direction we should go with some of the beers we were doing. We had tons of people that offered to come drink these beers for the sensory program, just based off of what they knew of me from these couple of tap takeovers and working at the other local brewery.
That definitely helped us within the local scene starting out. It brought an excitement to our opening and helping us get off on a good foot. You can say, within the San Antonio craft beer community.
Justin: Yes. When I was in college, I was really into craft beer, but back then, there was only a handful of craft brewers in the state of Texas. I remember, they were just trying to be good at their three or four, and then you had St. Arnold start their divine reserve program and that was just such a big buzz. I was looking at your list of beers and it’s a very unique list of beers on tap at your tasting room.
Talk to me when you all finally decided to open your own brewery, you obviously wanted it to be different than what else was on the market. What was your idea? What was your vision for your own brewery?
Marcus: Yes. Dealing with the type of beers that we have on tap originally, I mean, obviously, we gravitated towards things that San Antonio wasn’t really familiar with, and that helped us, as well as gaining some support within the community. I was heavy into imperial stouts, barrel aged stouts, IPAs, sours, that type of thing when I used to drink within California and back home and that type of stuff.
That was more so what I had gravitated towards when I started drinking, and so that’s what I wanted to produce here. I mean, you look at we were the first brewery to produce pastry stouts here, we were the first brewery to do the hazy IPAs or real hazy IPAs here. We were the first brewery to do pastry sours here, and people were excited about those type of projects.
Over time, I have had the ability to start flexing my brewer’s muscles. I’m a very prideful individual, especially when it comes to the beer that we produce here, so when you start hearing those taunts like, “Oh, all they make is this, or, all they make is that.” It’s like, “That might be true, but it’s not like I don’t know how to make other stuff.”
Over the course of the last year, especially in the tap room, and stuff like that, I’ve had the ability to go ahead and try to diversify our tap wall. If you look at our tap wall now, it’s different than say two, three years ago. Two, three years ago, you’d probably come in and we’d have six, seven stouts on tap, two to three IPAs, a couple of sours, and then two lagers.
Now we have four lagers on tap, a sayzon, brown ale, a Belgian quad, maybe two stouts on tap, maybe one sour on tap, that type of thing. It’s definitely shifted in the way that we’ve been producing some of our beers and some of our styles, but what we try to do is make sure that everything that we produce is a quality and so regardless, if we’re more known for stouts or IPAs, you’re going to still get a quality beer of whatever style you choose to come and have when you come to the brewery.
Justin: Is the is the tasting room and the brewery in the same location?
Marcus: Yes. It’s all one big building, we’re on the [unintelligible 00:21:25] on west avenue.
Justin: By the theater?
Marcus: Yes. Actually, right across the street from the theater.
Justin: You and Mark decide, was it 2016, did you say?
Marcus: Yes. Me and Mike started working on the brewery about 2015 and we opened in November 2016.
Justin: Talk to me about the growth. I know you all talk about in terms of barrels, right?
Justin: How have you all grown in terms of quantity or volume over the last five years?
Marcus: As far as growth goes, we’ve done about 30% growth every year. It hasn’t been bad. It could be better in our eyes, but 30% growth is 30% growth. That’s something that we’ve been really happy about, is that we have been able to grow over the course of time within those few years that we’ve been open. We looked at COVID and we actually did take a hit, especially with the the lack of customers and different things that obviously didn’t come out because of the virus, and so we had moved towards a to-go method.
Originally, a lot of the craft beer scene, definitely did come out and support the breweries and try to sustain what they could, but obviously, that’s not going to sustain 18 to 20 different breweries within the entire city over the course of over a year. We definitely did take a hit within last year, but because of the initiative and some of the popularity that we have garnered since then, we definitely have had the streamline of growth, to the point where we’ve had to hire somebody to assist us with trying to manage the growth, obviously, because me and Mike don’t not know anything about brewery growth, as this is our first brewery and attempt.
We have somebody that’s come in that’s helped recently, they’re growth out of Aspen coffee, they’re here within San Antonio, and they’re the ones that produce coffee for Starbucks and Chameleon and that type of thing, as far as the [unintelligible 00:23:35] offerings. He’s now our Chief Operations Officer, and has been working directly with me to manage some of the new things that we have going on, recently– Probably shut the door. I’m sorry.
Recently, we ended up starting in verse distros, delivering certain specialty products over the course to various states, even countries. We started selling beer to California and Nevada, Virginia and New York, Florida, let’s see China, Japan, some of our beer will be going to Europe, Canada. We’re going to start sending beer a little more further down to Texas, Corpus Christi and El Paso areas and different things like that.
Being said that, we definitely need somebody here to assist us with that, make sure we don’t mess up certain opportunities, for sure, but even then we started our canning wine recently, so you’re going to see a lot more of our west coast IPA, and a lot more of our hardwood classic within cans. It’s actually going into Walmart’s across Texas starting the ninth. Starting the ninth, you’re going to be able to start seeing West Coast and Hardwood in Walmarts across Texas.
Even outside of that our hardwood classic pilsner has gone ahead and entered AT&T center for the rest of the Spurs season. You’ll be able to have Hardwood there out of the can, and that type of thing. We’re really excited about some of the things that we have going on and some of the growth that we’ve had based on some of the recent things over the course of the last eight or nine months or so.
Justin: What are the bestsellers?
Marcus: Our bestsellers are definitely going to be our West Coast IPA, which I’m drinking now. We’re actually canning, we’re sending 105 cases to Beer Festival for beer advocate, they’re having an extreme IPA festival and this is the offering that we’re sending. Then outside of that definitely it would be Hardwood Classic which is going in the cans and available on places across San Antonio currently and then outside of that, our stouts are always best sellers whenever we put those on.
Justin: Are you all still considered a micro are you are a small?
Marcus: We’re considered a brewpub.
Justin: You’re all considered a brewpub?
Justin: Oh, because that’s some of the law that changed, right? Now Brewpubs can sell?
Marcus: Yes. We’re considered a brewpub. We had to classify ourselves as obviously as a restaurant when that whole situation happened [unintelligible 00:26:26] COVID, but we’re a brewpub and you can be a brewpub until you hit 10,000 barrels and I don’t see as hitting 10,000 barrels until probably four or five years from now. That’s a lot of beer to be made.
Justin: How many barrels are you all at now?
Marcus: We’re hoping to hit about 2,500 to 3,000 this year.
Justin: What would be a microbrewery, if you all were a brewery?
Marcus: A regular brewery would be 10,000 barrels to I think it’s 100,000 and then anything over 100,000, it’s the big boys.
Marcus: I remember when Saint Arnold’s went from micro to small to medium in two years and they made a big deal about that. I think the timing is– Oh, no I’ve covered that. The timing is perfect. On TV right now is the the George Floyd trial and that wasn’t timed, but you started this initiative and you’re going to be able to better explain it, but it seems like you started it, because you wanted to give back and also have some say through your work in what’s happening but it really just took off, talk to us about the Black is Beautiful initiative and how you thought it up and then how it grew.
Marcus: The Black is Beautiful initiative actually came to fruition over the course of a couple of days in May. I was actually on my way to Dallas to go up to turning point which is just a brewery up there. I was listening to Breonna Taylor’s mom talk on The Breakfast Club about the course of actions of her finding out how her daughter was murdered. That conversation was so hard to listen to, it literally brought me to tears.
On the course my way there, you’re listening to the whole thing dealing with the protests and different things like that, on the way back you’re listening to the protest and it’s getting you up in arms, it’s making you upset with some of the things that are going on. Like I said earlier in the conversation, I’m the introvert and it was peak COVID, so I’m not going to the protest, that type of thing, but for me, it made me disappointed within myself that I wasn’t going because we’re at such a prolific point in history and I’m sitting at home.
It’s like, “What are you going to do to contribute, what are you going to do to give back.” It’s like the the thing where people always run their mouths about something but then don’t ever take action into whatever they’re talking about. For me, I’ve always been pro-black in the sense I’m proud of who I am, I’m a proud black man. For that reason, I felt like I needed to do something.
Originally, I was going to do Black is Beautiful as a standalone release within the brewery, release some beer, take some of those donations and then donate them to the Know Your Rights camp, but then I was having a conversation with Jeffrey [unintelligible 00:29:20], over the course of the week and we’re having a conversation about Trump, strong race relations, family and that type of thing.
At some point I sent him the mark up of the label. It was like, “Hey, this what thinking about dealing in retaliation to what’s going.” His response was, “I would understand if you don’t want to, but you should turn this into a collaboration.” What he was referencing was, what other half, the hold together beer or Sierra Nevada did with resilience. I was like, “You know what Jeff? That’s actually a great idea.” That was that Friday.
Saturday, I started working on a mission statement trying to create– Well, no that was Saturday. Sunday, started working on the mission statement more so what I wanted to represent within the initiative, sent it off to a couple of industry people, sent it off to a couple of friends just to get their opinions or if things needed to be changed, which or whatever the case may be.
I ended up going to sleep at night, but really couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing. I got up three o’clock in the morning and just went to the brewery and I typed out the entire initiative that you see on the Black is Beautiful dark beer website front to back. The mission statement of what we were asking, the recipe. Kevin literally had me– Katie designs literally had the finished, finalized label at 10:58, and I had a meeting at 11 o’clock and I think I printed out the initiative. I was done around 10:55. Here you go.
Printed it, brought it to our Monday meeting and was like, “This is how I’m feeling and this is what we’re going to do.” Everybody was on board. Not that they really had a choice anyway, but everybody was really excited about what we wanted to do. We ended up posting a video that Monday just as a teaser and they had gotten great reception. The next day we ended up actually launching the initiatives and it turned out to an amazing response.
For those that don’t know what the Black is Beautiful initiative is, it’s a call to arms. Originally what it was, was a call to arms breweries across the United States to participate in a collaborative effort and brewing a recipe that was created here at weathered souls in support of equality, police brutality, and inclusion. The requirement was you brew the stout, use the label and then donate 100% of those proceeds to local organizations.
Off the gate, I think when the first has had 300 people involved themselves, and I think I originally told my business partner life, my goal was 250 breweries. Then within the course of over a month or two, we hit that 1200 mark all 50 States, there’s multiple countries think 25, 26 different countries that have involved themselves, but since then, it’s transcended just beyond beer.
You look at beer and you realize that the beer itself is just a message. It’s just a vessel, but the overall real thing that Black is Beautiful about is creating that conversation, having those hard to have conversations that you wouldn’t normally have with individuals. It’s also the commerce aspect. 100% of these proceeds are going to organizations that are going to support community, support charity, support organizations that are supporting people and minorities in creating change.
You look at that and now it’s transcended into other businesses. You have coffee makers involved themselves, chocolate makers involved themselves. You’ve had– Let’s see, distilleries, wineries. This literally can transcend to any service industry and create something that can transcend beyond, who knows how far we’re going to look at. You look at the total donation amount and I’ve only had about 308 responses and it was already at $1.7 million.
You figure that’s only a fourth of the actual people that have involved themselves. Once we got a real tally of the amount of commerce that’s been moved, we literally have made history. The beer industry of the blue really made history. You look at this and I don’t think there’s been any other service industry that has created a social justice initiative that has moved so much commerce in support of equality.
It’s crazy that the brewing industry of all places is the one to do it because again, the brewing industry has always labeled as non-inclusive or not the greatest industry for people of color. You look at it and there’s 8,500 different breweries in the United States, and there’s less than 1% of black ownership. Even in this great state of Texas, there’s over 380 breweries. As far as I know, there’s only two black head brewers in the entire state.
Marcus: You look at those numbers and just to show what the brewing industry has done in supported, it’s crazy.
Justin: In some of the interviews, I read you talk about this initiative, but you also talk about it in terms of like, you just discussed how the beer culture, which for people who don’t know there is a real beer culture. There’s magazines, there’s podcasts, there’s events for the beer culture of people and you’ve mentioned again, how there’s not many people of color within that beer culture. Prior to the Black is Beautiful as you were starting it, did you find hurdles that were in place or did you just–
Marcus: I’ve been very fortunate in the beer scene. I can’t sit here and say that I’ve never not had a negative experience within the brewing industry, but it’s too far less than the positive experiences that I’ve had. Most of the negative experiences have been me as a consumer, not in the actual industry itself as a head brewer or as an owner, it’s been more so like, you go out to drink somewhere and somebody thinks that you don’t know anything about beer.
They do that symbolized try to educate you about beer, that type of thing, or you go to a tap room and you’re the only minority in the entire taproom. That feels like those eyes are on you. Like, what is he doing in here? Type thing. I’ve had those experiences, but as far as the actual craft beer culture that I’ve received since being in the industry, I’ve been very well received. My mentors have all been Caucasian.
Again, there’s not many of me in the industry. Even starting out, it wasn’t really viable for me to reach out to these individuals to have their involvement in my growth, but there was a lot of Caucasian males that have put themselves out there to assist in my growth. You look at [unintelligible 00:36:23] brewing in El Dorado Hills California, they used to let me come volunteer back in the day when I was home brewing and stuff like that, living in Sacramento, helping out.
We used to have a beer group called Brothers Beer, and it was just in supportive of creating camaraderie within everybody. Even before Black is Beautiful when I was home brewing and was still trying to create camaraderie within the brewing industry, because we obviously seen that lack of individuals that looked like me within those tap rooms. It was brewing black IPA’s and naming it, Brothers Beer or going to the younger fests for [unintelligible 00:36:58] and the entire breweries, Channing brothers of beer, stuff like that.
We’ve always had support within the community and in craft beer. When I moved out here and was home brewing Jeffrey Stuffings from Jester King, I ended up being first in line for one of his releases for atrial and that’s how me and him met. I introduced myself, “I’m a home brewer, blah, blah, blah. I would love for you to try my beer one day.” This is what I was like a fan of this individual. We’ve grown to become friends now, but I used to be a real fan. For me to get up at four o’clock in the morning and go see, until 11:00 AM to get a beer, you have to be a real fan of somebody.
Even then him trying our beers and giving us so much information on the business end of how to support our brewery and different things like that. I’ve been very fortunate [inaudible 00:37:56] to the people that have had behind me in support of the brewery and different things like that. It’s definitely been different than some other people’s experiences.
I know some people that have had very negative experiences but for myself, it’s been definitely an amazing journey. Even going into since the Black is Beautiful initiative, I’m now on the board of directors for the brewer’s association. That’s not something that I would ever think that I’d be able to do in my life or dealing with Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the same thing. At the end of the day, there are different little feats that you would not think that individuals like me would be able to do within the industry.
I’m the first minority to ever sit on the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, and then also assisted within them with creating a diversity committee that was launched this year. Those are definitely some proud moments that I’ve been to have within the last year or so.
Justin: Looking at your menu, it reminded me of Jester King, which has a cult following. Like you just said, people would get up in the middle of the night to go wait in line for a release. Do you all have a similar following here in San Antonio of people that are always waiting on the new releases and things like that?
Marcus: We have had those types of releases. Things changed as we’ve grown. Some of our stuff used to be a lot more small batch than what they are now. There’s obviously more availability, but definitely, there would be those times that we had a specialty release and there’s people that are getting in line at three o’clock in the morning, they wait in line for these releases and you show up to the brewery and there’s 120 people in line all the way down to Magnolia [unintelligible 00:39:43]. We’ve definitely been able to have those experiences with some of the releases that we’ve had.
Justin: You were a home brewer who ended up finding and getting to live out your passion for your career. Are you doing anything or do you have any programs or competitions for home brewers?
Marcus: We do host a yearly homebrew competition here. We didn’t do it during COVID obviously. We’ll run it back this year. What we do is open up a beer style, those people who can produce certain beer styles within that range and we go through and pick the best beer and then brew that beer with said winner and then they get the release the beer within our tap room.
Justin: Very cool.
Marcus: Then this year, I’ll actually be the keynote speaker for Homebrew Con in June for the brewers association. That should be fun too.
Justin: It’ll provide a lot of inspiration for a lot of people who are doing it at home and want to be in your shoes one day.
Justin: I have a small business, you have a small business and we all have growing pains and it’s been in the news lately. I wish you were here drinking that and then we could [crosstalk].
Marcus: Well, I’m over here making a mess.
Justin: It sounds like the Black Is Beautiful campaign took off way bigger than you all expected. It’s had some growing pains that have been in the news here recently. Is there any sort of plan to, I don’t know, really organize it within its own nonprofit to provide some sort of accountability and things like that?
Marcus: Yes. That’s definitely the ultimate goal for the initiative is to definitely have it grow into its own non-profit. At the end of the day, we’re a very small or a brewery in a sense and so our resources are limited. Definitely, what I want to do within the future of this project is growing into a non-profit, let it be self-sustainable and continue to grow and help the community and support those people that need it.
Justin: Well, what advice do you have for people that are following their passion? That’s the one thing when I read about you, it’s just pretty clear. You’ve known for a long time that you love making beer and now you’re getting to live that out. What advice do you have for people that are sitting in their shoes thinking, “I wish I could do and really follow my passion?”
Marcus: Don’t give up. That’s the best thing that I can tell you. For me, it was literally– Once I had that in my mind that I wanted to open a brewery, I was getting up at three o’clock in the morning to go downstairs and brew beer in the garage. At one point I think I had four or five beers on rotation at a time. It was once a week literally, brewing. You can’t give up on your passion. It’s a passion.
You have to eat, sleep, breathe it. That could be the best advice that I have for anybody that really has a passion for something that they really want to do. Obviously, don’t give up your normal life. I didn’t quit my Citibank job until we were a month or two within the brewery. Definitely, don’t quit life to pursue your passion, but you got to put those efforts in and put that drive in to be able to achieve much more.
Justin: You all were recently named a brewery of the year by a Hop Culture magazine. You’re right here in San Antonio. You all got a brewpub, which people can go eat food as well as have drinks. It’s at 606 Embassy Oaks. Is that right?
Marcus: Yes. 606 Embassy Oaks. We ended up getting a homebrewer of the year. We ended up getting Cause Of The Year.
Marcus: Last year, I ended up getting wine enthusiasts 40 Under 40 Top Pacemaker Of The Year. We were just featured in San Antonio Women’s Magazine as the guy to know for the month. That type of thing. We have amazing food that’s done by Chef Andrew. He owns [unintelligible 00:43:51] South Barbecue.
Justin: No joke?
Marcus: Yes. He’s putting out some amazing burgers and barbecue here. I want to say we’re starting to taco Tuesday this week. Then outside of that, obviously the amazing beers that we have to pair with the barbecue. Definitely, if you guys haven’t been by the brewery or looking to come by the brewery, come check us out.
Justin: Outdoor seating?
Marcus: Yes. We definitely have outdoor seating.
Justin: Do you all have bottled beer to go at most HEBs or?
Marcus: No bottled beer to go. What we do is within the taproom, we always have beer to go. Then again starting April 9th, you’ll be able to [unintelligible 00:44:32] with classic and Westcoast within Walmarts across San Antonio Walmarts across Texas. Then also check some of your local locations around town that carried craft cans as Westcoast and hardwood classic will be in some of those as well.
Justin: No placement HEB yet?
Marcus: Not yet. That might come soon. We’ll see what happens.
Justin: Well, I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time and I hope I can get over there one day and catch you while you’re brewing or I’ll just pop in one day and introduce myself, but I appreciate you spending time with me. I think everybody in the city owes you a debt for not only what you’re doing for the beer scene, but also what you’re doing for this movement. It’s incredible.
You’ve put San Antonio on the map in multiple ways and I think that’s awesome. I look forward to everything that’s going to happen with you guys because it sounds like you all are rattling cages and making noise and doing good things for the city every year. I’m sure that’s going to continue.
Marcus: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Justin: Well, Marcus, I appreciate it, man. You take care. Thanks again for joining us. I hope to meet you in person very soon.
Marcus: Yes, definitely. Come by.
Justin: All right, man. Take care. Thank you.
Justin: All right. That’s going to do it for this episode of The Alamo Hour. Thanks again to Marcus for joining us. If you haven’t done any research into who he is and what he is doing, take a minute and go Google him. Look up Weathered Souls if you’re a real beer drinker, they’ve got all the kinds of different styles that you might like and a lot of adventurous styles. Our guests’ wishlist continues.
I just keep bugging Shea Serrano on Twitter, but he ignores me. Coach Popovich, I’m very hopeful that you’re going to join me one day very soon. Now I’m inspired on the beer scene. I’m going to bug the guy from Alamo Beer who was previously scheduled, but then he was unable to make it. I’m going to get him back on the schedule. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time.[music]
Thanks for joining us on this episode of The Alamo Hour. You are all what makes this city so great. We hope you join us next week. In the meantime, subscribe to our podcast and check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/alamohour or our websitealamohour.com. Until next time, Viva San Antonio.[music]