Kitchener-Waterloo

Lantern Ale launched in Guelph to celebrate Black History Month

The Guelph Black Heritage Society has paired up with Royal City Brewing for special beer to celebrate Black History Month. Lantern Ale is being released Thursday night during a special event.

'The lantern was a symbol of hope' during the Underground Railroad

Raising a glass of Lantern Ale are, from left, John Leacock and Denise Francis of the Guelph Black Heritage Society and Russell Bateman of Royal City Brewing Co. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The Guelph Black Heritage Society has paired up with Royal City Brewing to create a special beer to celebrate Black History Month.

Part of the proceeds from sales of Lantern Ale will go back to the society, which is currently raising $45,000 to make its Heritage Hall at 83 Essex Street accessible.

The 1880 building is a former British Methodist Episcopal Church, which had ties to the Underground Railroad, the society's secretary-treasurer Denise Francis said.

"The lantern was a symbol of hope. People would see the lantern in the window and that would guide them to safety from the south to the north," she said.

"We thought the lantern would be a good symbol."

The group thought it could be called Lantern Lager, but the beer "turned out to be an ale," she said laughing.

'Very approachable beer'

Russell Bateman is one of the owners of Royal City Brewing and said they regularly partner with local groups to help raise awareness and money for their cause.

The lantern was a symbol of hope. People would see the lantern in the window and that would guide them to safety from the south to the north.- Denise Francis, Guelph Black Heritage Society

The brewery is a big supporter of Wounded Warriors. They've also raised funds for the live comedy and improv group The Making Box.

He said for these kinds of fundraisers, they use an approachable, easy-drinking beer. It's often a rebrand of one of their regular beers – but beer sold under the Lantern Ale label will be recorded separately, with a portion of proceeds going back to the society. 

The Lantern Ale is a blonde ale, a "very approachable" beer, Bateman said.

"This one's a fairly easy drinking ale," he added, noting there's a slight bitterness from hops used in the brewing process just to give the beer some character.

Beer will help with fundraising

Francis and long-time member of the society, John Leacock, were instant fans.

"It tastes great. You've converted a non-beer drinker," Francis said.

"It's smooth. It's beautiful," Leacock said, smiling over an empty glass. "It feels the feeling of happiness and community."

Leacock said he thinks it will go a long way to help them with their fundraising goals.

Ideally, they want to make Heritage Hall "a destination, a sanctuary, a place for people to come and feel safe and feel at home – everybody, the whole community," he said.

"That's what this is about, including having some really good beer during Black History Month."

Events include movies, drums and dancing

The beer will be launched Thursday night at Royal City Brewing at 199 Victoria Rd. S. in Guelph. The event will also feature a performance by singer-songwriter Malachi Greenidge.

The society is planning a movie night for Saturday, which will include a performance by the Youth Jazz Ensemble.

There will also be a drumming workshop at Heritage Hall on Feb. 25 in the afternoon, then drums and dancing that same night with performances by the Funga Drummers, music by DJ Charless Janzen and the Lantern Ale will be available on site.

Learn about the events on the Guelph Black Heritage Society's website.

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