Ramsey Louder, the first black man to co-own a brewery in Minneapolis, resigns from company

Ramsey Louder, co-founder of ONE Fermentary & Taproom, resigned from the company on June 26 // Photo by Tj Turner

Ramsey Louder, co-founder of ONE Fermentary & Taproom, resigned from the company on June 26 // Photo by Tj Turner

Head brewer and co-owner Ramsey Louder announced his resignation from ONE Fermentary & Taproom on June 26, saying in a statement on his Facebook page, “I’ve realized that my vision and values differ from those of ownership of ONE.”

Louder is the first Black man to co-own a brewery in Minneapolis, and the second in the state behind Montgomery Brewing Company. ONE Fermentary & Taproom opened its doors in November 2019 with a stated mission of fostering inclusion and diversity, from its staffing to its patrons to its tagline: “One for all and all for one.” While The Growler was unable to reach Louder for comment, the brewer’s statement suggests that ONE Fermentary has not fulfilled that mission in the way Louder had hoped:

There are moments of clarity in times of struggle. My clarity came during the times of COVID-19 and in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Something that I have always known but have tucked away is how vulnerable BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] folks are in America. BIPOC folks are dying at the highest rates from COVID-19. BIPOC folks have been fighting against white supremacy in many forms but especially in the form of police brutality for hundreds of years.

I’ve realized that my vision and values differ from those of ownership of ONE.

The brewery that I see is one that represents BIPOC folks not only by creating a space that is welcoming to them. It also is a brewery that exists where BIPOC lives. A place that employs BIPOC intentionally. Starting with engineers, contractors and artists to bartenders. A place that gives back to the community even if some of the folk in the community don’t imbibe. A place that supports and partners with other BIPOC businesses in a way that we can support each other and grow together. I want to be in a space that can proclaim that Black Lives Matter. I believe that pouring back into BIPOC, LGBTQ+ communities by building equity and inclusion is a way forward in making us stronger and less vulnerable to the many hurdles of being minorities in America.

Following Louder’s announcement, fellow co-founder of ONE Fermentary (and previous Growler editor-in-chief) Joseph Alton also took to Facebook to announce his resignation, stating, “I stand with Ramsey.”

Local advocacy group Brewing Change Collaborative, of which Louder is a co-founder, shared his announcement with its community members and partners and added its own statement, writing:

We have seen over the last several weeks an outpouring of support, an acknowledgment of how far we have to go, both individually and as a community. We have joined our voices together to speak out against police brutality, racial injustice, bias, discrimination, oppression, and unequal privilege. BCC specifically has stated that we will not accept silence from our community. We will not support, or be supported by, individuals or organizations that are unwilling to put impactful change and action into place. We will not be placated. Our Lives will not be used as a hashtag or a boost for sales, income, notoriety, or attention.

The Growler was unable to reach Louder or ONE Fermentary’s remaining owners for comment.

[Update: June 27, 2020, at 11pm] 

ONE Fermentary posted a statement on its Facebook and Instagram on June 26 at 8pm, saying they were heartbroken that Louder resigned and were “incredibly supportive of his desire to pursue the vision he describes in his post.” They also said that they “accept the challenge he’s put forward to continue making ONE a business that celebrates diversity and inclusion as our core values.” 

Brewing Change Collaborative responded to ONE Fermentary’s statement on Instagram with a scathing comment, stating:

The commitment to that mission has been and continues to be in question. It is because of that, that YOUR voice has been disingenuous in the community. Simply propping up an image of Diversity and Inclusion is not enough. Creating a space that not only draws people of all ethnicities, gender identities, abilities, and ages does absolutely nothing if you do nothing to make your space EQUITABLE for your own staff. This, amongst others, has been a necessary piece that has long been lost in the foundation and soul of ONE. We regret that the loss of dollars is your motivation more than the loss of lives. You’ve polished the house’s exterior, but the framework is rotten.

On June 27, Alton followed up his original post with a longer statement in which he says he resigned because he believes that “ONE has failed in its promise to provide a uniquely positive environment for BIPOC and other disenfranchised and underrepresented groups.” 

Joseph Alton's June 27, 2020, statement on his resignation from ONE Fermentary & Taproom

Joseph Alton’s June 27, 2020, statement on his resignation from ONE Fermentary & Taproom

Alton says he tried to use his privilege as a white man and his networks to amplify Black voices, but “I now understand that I, like too many white people, have stayed too quiet about things I’ve seen that made my BIPOC Friends, co-workers, and allies uncomfortable.” 

The letter outlines several instances that made Alton uncomfortable during his time with the company, including: ONE frequently being identified as a “Black Owned Business” though Louder only held a small minority stake; the company’s statement drafted by Louder in response to the murder of George Floyd being “edited by a white woman”; and that the majority owners pushed to reopen the taproom on June 10 “when the violence and unrest that resulted from the Floyd murder was still so fresh.” 

When asked for comment in regards to Brewing Change Collaborative’s response and the issues outlined Alton’s letter, ONE’s president and owner Sally Schmidt shared the following statement on behalf of the company: 

ONE Fermentary and Taproom has always been committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, as reflected in our diversity of staff, our name and our mission. As stated on our website, “we named our establishment ‘ONE’ because our entire ethos is built around inclusion….” We wanted to show our ongoing commitment to the community and the rebuilding efforts in north Minneapolis. Proceeds from the sale of a soon-to-be-released beer will benefit the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition and we also have donated to the Humanize My Hoodie.  

We further made a statement on social media in the wake of the killing of Mr. George Floyd because we understand that Black lives matter. 

Regarding Ramsey Louder’s departure, we reluctantly accepted his resignation and will greatly miss him. He has been an integral part of the company. We also value the contributions of Joseph Alton, who recently ended his consulting relationship with ONE. As a privately owned business, we are choosing to address this issue privately. 

We appreciate all of our employees and their hard work and dedication to our customers. The owner, Sally Schmidt, along with the entire ONE team, look forward to continuing to serve the community. We value the deep relationships that we have built in the Twin Cities.

Brian Kaufenberg contributed additional reporting to this story.