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Marcus Baskerville, Owner and Brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
Episode 386th April 2021 • The Alamo Hour • Justin Hill
00:00:00 00:46:58

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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?

Marcus: Yes.

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.

Justin: Nice.

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...