By: Jan Engoren
Seizing on a moment in history, three local entrepreneurs – Anthony Barber of Troy’s Barbeque in Boynton and Boca Raton, Yonathan Ghersi of 26° Brewing Co. in Pompano Beach and Rodney Mayo of Sub-Culture Restaurant Group in West Palm Beach have joined forces to launch BLM Lager.
With a goal of pursuing their culinary passions and a thirst to honor the Black Lives Matter movement, all proceeds from the sale of the lager will benefit Black Lives Matter initiatives and the Corey Jones Scholarship Foundation.
Jones, a Delray Beach native and a relative of Barber, was tragically killed in 2015 by a plainclothes police officer, while waiting for a tow truck in Palm Beach Gardens.
“He was a great guy; we were both musicians and no one ever thought anything like this would ever happen,” remembers Barber, who was born into the barbeque business founded by his father, Troy Davis, more than 25 years ago in Boynton Beach.
“Corey was the image of positivity and love, and everyone loved him,” Barber said. “No one could ever say a bad thing about him and his death was tragic. Had there been legislation passed at that time to make police officers more accountable for their actions, maybe George Floyd could still be alive.”
It’s clear why this project holds a special place in Barber’s heart.
With his restaurant business still booming, despite COVID-19, last year he opened a location at 1198 N. Dixie Hwy. in Boca Raton and has plans to open a third location in West Palm Beach.
Over the past four months of stay-at-home, Barber has not been idle; joining forces with Mayo and his non-profit, Hospitality Helping Hands, which refocused his employees to prepare more than 250,000 hot meals for those who lost work in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach.
So, it was only natural that Barber would turn to Mayo for support.
“I knew that Rodney, a champion for social justice and helping people, would be a great partner because he has 26 establishments in South Florida where this message could continue to be shared in a positive light,” said Barber.
He also knew that Ghersi would be on-board.
Barber had often taken his barbeque food truck to the 26° Brewing Company in Pompano Beach and done quite well.
“As a black, family-owned business, I felt it only right that we jump in and do our fair share and present the idea,” Barber said. “When I called Yonathan, he did not blink; the answer was an immediate yes, and I knew I had the right partner for the project.”
Says Ghersi, a co-founder of the brewery, “Our goal is to help bring more awareness to the countless injustices suffered by minorities and the systemic problems that have been ignored for far too long,”
“We have been watching and seeing how we can do our part,” he said. “We all need to do better.”
Barber characterizes the beer as “refreshing, but not fruity” with a light alcohol content – 5.3 percent ABV.
“It’s the best Sunday afternoon beer ever” he jokes.” It’s a true South Florida hot day beer, a backyard barbeque beer, a boat ride beer, a kick-back, drink three beers and hang out beer. You can kill a 6-pack with a friend and still be able to walk around.”
Made with pilsner malt and flaked corn, the lager has a hint of sweetness to counteract the hops and will be sold in six-pack, 12 oz. cans, available, of course, at Troy’s Barbeque, 26° Brewing Company and SubCulture restaurants.
Long-term, his goal is to have his message be heard (and consumed) nation-wide. He would like to see the BLM Lager in every grocery store with proceeds benefitting the Corey Jones Scholarship Foundation.
The group is looking for distribution at large resellers, and Barber hopes the strong graphic on the can – an upraised black fist on a black background with white lettering – won’t deter them.
“We have a strong message,” says Barber. “So we have a strong graphic. We want you to pay attention. Just because we say “save the whales, doesn’t mean to kill all the sharks,” he says, making an analogy to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We want to do what we can to make this right,” Barber says.
BLM Lager can be purchased at 26° Brewing Co., located at 2600 E. Atlantic Blvd. in Pompano Beach, and will soon be available at the Sub-Culture Restaurant Group’s locations as well as at Troy’s Barbecue locations at 1920 S. Federal Hwy., Boynton Beach and 1198 N. Dixie Hwy., in Boca Raton.