From Sparkleberry Ale to Star Child Pilsner, Breweries Celebrate Pride Month with Special Beers
Evolving from a single day into four weeks of events, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month commemorates the June 28, 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, and is celebrated in the US each June. Around the country, parades, parties, rallies, concerts, and other gatherings seek to unite the LGBT community, draw attention to social issues, and recognize the progress of activists in the past year. Increasingly, craft breweries are participating in Pride Month by sponsoring events, donating to charities and nonprofits, creating special release beers, or, sometimes, a combination of all three.
Since 2013, Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery has fermented Sparkling Ale, its Belgian-style Tripel, on whole raspberries to create the award-winning Sparkleberry Ale, its liquid celebration of diversity. For the past the five years, Bell’s has also been the presenting sponsor for Kalamazoo Pride, and in 2018 became the beer sponsor for Grand Rapids Pride.
In Seattle, Fremont Brewing Company has brewed Pride Kölsch since 2016, donating a portion of the proceeds to a variety of Washington nonprofit groups including Entre Hermanos and Pride Foundation in 2018.
“We know that many in the LGBTQ community love craft beer, but the craft beer community is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a fairly insular crowd of predominantly straight, male beer geeks—despite the fact that Fremont Brewing, and I’m sure many other craft breweries, have LGBTQ team members working in various departments,” says founder Sara Nelson. “[Husband and co-founder] Matt [Lincecum] and I wanted to support our family, friends, and staff in the LGBTQ community, and making a beer for Pride Month is the best way for a brewery to get the word out that we all should be free to be who we are and to love who and want to, and to feel, well, pride in ourselves.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Brandon Skall, CEO and co-founder of DC Brau in the District of Columbia. His brewery partners with The Washington Blade, DC’s gay newspaper, to choose a local artist to design a special Pride Month can for its popular Brau Pils. The 2018 can was designed by Alden Leonard. In just two years, sales of Pride Pils have raised more than $24,000 for SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) and the Blade Foundation, which helps fund journalism projects focused on underrepresented communities. “DC Brau has often been outspoken about social issues, using our platform to affect change when and where we can, which has included LGBTQ issues for a long time,” he says. “The revolution may not be televised, but it is fermenting.”
Also on the East Coast, Threes Brewing of Brooklyn, N.Y., recently released Gender Neutral, a pale lager made with lemon zest, for the second time. According to CEO and co-founder Joshua Stylman, 10 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this beer will be donated to the Anti-Violence Project, the country’s largest anti-LGBTQ violence organization.
“Like many cities, Pride Month is a big deal in our hometown of New York City, as well as a source of excitement in the Gowanus neighborhood where our brewery is located,” he says. “Every beer we make, each event we host, and every cause we support ties back to our community, so this is no different. We wanted to show solidarity with our people by making a special beer for the occasion.”
And this year in New England, Revival Brewing Company got in on the act, debuting its first Pride beer, Star Child Pilsner. Unfiltered and dry hopped with Mosaic, Star Child is available across Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. While the company’s 2018 charitable contribution was relatively small, marketing manager Mathiew Medeiros says Revival will continue to be “big supporters of the LGBTQ community,” and now plans to get involved with Pride annually. “We have raised over $500 for Rhode Island Pride—our local organization that helps create opportunities for integrating and promoting visibility for the LGBTQ community—through a fundraiser in our taproom on June 9 and [by] donating cases of Star Child that were sold at the Rhode Island PrideFest.” ■