North Carolina Brewers Protest HB2 Law With "Don't Be Mean" Beer

Protesters chant in opposition of N.C. HB2 in Chapel Hill. Credit: Chris Seward / Raleigh News & Observer / TNS / Getty Images

Two North Carolina breweries are doing what they do best to make a difference. Ponysaurus Brewing and Mystery Brewing teamed up to create a new beer in opposition of House Bill 2, which prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules and reverses Charlotte ordinance that extended rights to the LBGT community.

Ponysaurus owner Keil Jansen and Mystery Brewing owner Erik Lars Myers came up with the idea to brew their new Don’t Be Mean to People: A Golden Rule saison last week after North Carolina governor Pat McCrory passed and signed HB2. The two brewmasters are longtime friends and both politically engaged, as well as active in the North Carolina Brewer’s Guild (Myers is the president of the Guild). “We got together for a beer after the bill was signed into law because, frankly, we were angry and we were venting,” Myers says. “We were trying to come up with something to do, and you know, painters paint, writers write. We're brewers. We make beer. It seemed like the natural thing to do. At first we were thinking political statement, but then we realized that we had the opportunity to do something good for people and came up with the idea for wide-reaching fundraising.”

And that was how the twosome came up with their Don’t Be Mean to People brew. The saison — which Jansen says is a golden brown beer made with 100 percent North Carolina grains, yeast, sorghum, and hops — is crisp, dry, and fruity, with flavors of lemon curd and pine tree.

It’s a good beer, but for Myers and Jansen, it’s more about the good cause. “This law has given people the excuse to act like assholes, and I don’t see the government stopping that anytime soon, so we’re using all the profits to help the people that this bill is going to negatively affect, especially kids,” says Jansen. “There are places in North Carolina that if your parents don’t help and support you, no one will. We are supporting the important outlets that help people who are left vulnerable.”

All sale proceeds are going to organizations benefiting the LGBT community, including Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer, a summer camp whose mission is to build queer community through music, and support groups such as Gay Straight Alliance clubs. In addition to fundraising through beer sales, the breweries have launched a campaign on Generosity.com where donations are rewarded with beer and brewery swag.

Brewing is scheduled to begin on Saturday at the Ponysaurus Brewery. Mystery Brewery is responsible for labeling cans, and more than 30 other breweries — including Fortnight Brewing Company and Ironclad Brewery — will be helping to off-set costs by donating their labor and selling the brew. “I cannot underscore enough how awesome the support from other breweries has been,” says Myers “Keil and I are getting a lot of attention as the progenitors, but credit should go to every brewery and business involved. It's an amazing and strong community.”

This isn’t the first time the craft beer world has used its power for good. San Francisco’s Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has been making small batches of its Mavericks Tunnel Vision IPA with recycled wastewater as a drought-friendly statement. New Belgium Brewery is a member of 1% For the Planet and donates around $1 million a year to fund healthy watersheds, sustainable agriculture, smart transportation, and environmental education.

And the guys behind Don’t Be Mean to People don’t see brewery activism as trend fading out anytime soon. Beer is a social beverage. “Beer has been at the middle of human development and communities for thousands of years,” says Meyers. “We, as breweries, are often great centers of community. We're in a unique and privileged position to be able to use that place in the community to create a social change. Beer is just a platform for the message.”