CraftBeer.com Feature by Real Ale Sharpton
Monday, December 4, 2017
North Carolina brewery follows up on my controversial article for CraftBeer.com.
Black Star Line owner L.A. McCrae adds more insight and thanks to those who supported her mission to make extraordinary beer.
It has been a busy fall, but I had the opportunity to write two articles this past month for what’s turning out to be one of my favorite media sources to contribute to—CraftBeer.com. They do whatever they can to support craft and independent breweries; showcase the people who make them possible; provide tutorials; and simply spread the love of what I consider the most complex and wondrous beverage in the world.
To add, I appreciate how especially the editor-in-chief Jess Baker agrees with what I consider worthy stories; rewardingly, the feedback has been tremendous since my first contribution this summer. It was this story on Brick Store Pub’s 20th anniversary which CraftBeer.com nominated for the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards. That meant a lot! My profile on Little City Brewing in Raleigh here, and introduction to the incredible sour and barrel-aging complex Monday Night Brewing added called The Garage followed.
And then there’s my most recent CraftBeer.com article on BlackStar Line Brewing Co. here. It helped bring national attention to owner L.A. McCrae’s shocking recounts of racism, sexism, death threats, and overall shocking resistance from numerous members of their North Carolina community—especially in their home base of Hendersonville—since opening in early October of 2017. I was already familiar with Black Star through their Instagram posts on this handle, but when fellow writer Scott Douglas reached out and informed me of all the deplorable happenings that were going down, things got real. Scott wanted to know if I could help get the word out on a national level and I didn’t think twice. Luckily, CraftBeer.com was the first media source I reached out to and Jess didn’t blink an eye. It was posted within a business day of my submission.
L.A. McCrae at her brewery. (Photo by Scott Douglas.)
The sharing of the article immediately followed on social media with retweets and Facebook posts, condolences in the comment section; financial backing to their crowdfunding campaign, and overall support from the craft beer community globally. Thankful for the results, L.A. wanted to extend the initial article by providing a follow-up interview geared towards recognizing others who have helped Black Star persevere; I happily posted our post-interview on my blog. Please read both the original article and L.A.’s important additions below. Here it is:
L.A. McCrae: Ale, thank you so much for taking a late evening phone call from Javi [chief operation manager and assistant brewer Javier Naranjo] and I. We are so grateful for your responsiveness and support. As you know, last week was crazy busy for us. We completely overlooked mentioning some key parts of our story and want to make sure we give credit where it is due. Thank you so much for this follow up.
Ale: No doubt! I understand that you wanted to give some more detailed recognition to the many folks who supported you through all the adversity you have faced since Black Star Line's early stages in Hendersonville, right?
Yes. Almost from the very beginning of Black Star Line Brewing Co., Kendra Penland, the executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, has been helping us navigate locations and connect with our craft brewing family. She, along with members of the ABA, provided us a warm welcome to the area and truly extended their resources and capacity to make us feel ‘at home.’ Countless hours were spent with Kendra texting, emailing, and over coffees and beer, planning for our future. As we were dreaming out loud about convening the first ever Black Brewers' Gathering, it was Kendra who immediately said the ABA would sponsor, support, and do whatever they could to help us with the event and build the guild. She has been a de facto member of the team and truly a mentor in the industry. Kendra, the ABA, and our local brew homies are not just allies, but co-conspirators as we seek to transform communities by producing great beers.
Also, our attorney Derek Allen and his firm have been critically imperative to our operations. Derek has been super responsive and helped us navigate various challenges, manage our risk, and truly focus so that we can produce the best beer. Being in Hendersonville allows us to have that type of accessibility, hands-on mentoring and support. When traveling across the Northeast to find and settle home, we certainly made a conscious decision to do it where we have family. Kendra, the ABA, Derek, the crew at Mountain BizWorks, and other brew homies—Hillman Beer, Triskelion, Habitat and so many others—have welcomed us to the family and are the reason we settled here in these mountains.
It has been the community and fellowship of those in our craft brewing family that has kept us going. They have given us hope when we were hopeless, encouragement when we were down, hugs when we felt lonely, and truly filled our wells with love. Thank you, y'all.
I think that this is really cool to let the world know how there are also good people to combat the ignorance that unfortunately still exists.
When we think about those who have provided support and have been on the front lines with us from day one and through the recent events, the list is fortunately extensive.
Kendra Penland of the ABA was with us every step of the way from day one. She was the one who reminded the crew and I to center our selfcare and really help us live into our mission of practicing collective healing and liberation. Internally, we consider her as our ‘older sister’ in the brewing industry who really provides a critical role as our mentor. Kendra immediately rallied the troops to support us, connect with us, and opened her entire network to us to make sure we felt held, valued, and affirmed in the community. In fact, we still have folks to follow up with! Thank you, ‘Auntie’ and ‘Big Sistah’ K!
Derek [Allen] has been absolutely essential and always just a text away. He always has our best interests at heart and has been our rock throughout all of the challenges, including our recent threats. He welcomed us into the brewing industry without hesitation. Recently, he has kept us grounded, focused, and steadily advancing towards our mission.
Karmen Olson from the Craft Brew Alliance has continued to provide support from across the country as we look to refine our branding and marketing. Most importantly, she has connected us with others in the industry who see our value, our mission, and what we are attempting to accomplish.
Tiffany and Patrick Wood have been new local best friends who have supported us every day with food, drinks, laughter, conversations, emotional support, and encouragement.
The folks in the city of Hendersonville have blessed us beyond belief with cards, words of encouragement, hugs, hand-written letters, and affirmations. Truly, the community has surfaced to show that racism, bigotry, and bias will not be tolerated. Local businesses sported the hashtags #WeAreBlackStarLine and #StandwithBlackStarLine and hosted conversations about community transformation, justice, and our social mission.
Community organizations in the Greater Asheville area such as Bountiful Cities and Nuestro Centro have offered to collaborate with us so that we can reach more people, draw the circle wider, and leverage their resources to support us during these difficult times. The Progressive Women of Hendersonville (PWH) have consistently shown up to support with their bodies, dollars, laughs, and hugs. Organizations such as the Highlander Center, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), and Charlotte Uprising have continued to hold us in their thoughts and prayers and simply held space for us in a way that is inexpressible in words. Thank you.
Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Highland, Preyer, Birdsong, Wedge, Gizmo Brewing, and so many others in the local brewing community have offered their time, talents, and treasures to bring light to diversity and inclusion in the craft brewing industry. It feels like our family grew beyond our wildest imaginations.
Without a doubt, there have been front line warriors who continue to be advocates, allies, co-conspirators and friends. For them, the Kendras, Dereks, Joes, Lisas, etc., we are forever grateful.
Any last mentions? What would you like to see happen now?
We would love to lift the work of the Asheville Brewers Alliance because truly, without them and their steady mentoring and programming, we would not be here today. As it is the end of the year, we encourage folks to check out the ABA website [avlbrewers.com] and consider making a donation. The team at Sanctuary [Brewing], the ABA, Kendra, and Derek can certainly be cited for incubating our business and holding us with the care of a newborn baby as we mature in the industry and deal with challenges such as those we endured in this last week.
Without a doubt, the frontline folks—through this experience and since the beginnings of Black Star Line Brewing Co.—have been essential to our success. Not only do they continue to provide support and mentoring, they are more than friends; they are family.