Every year for Black History Month, we read stories of leaders from our past, and how their actions impacted the present. We learn how they fought to change voting rights, bridging gaps, unifying classrooms, ending segregation, and creating opportunities for others to thrive in industries they once were never allowed. We learn about how these leaders paved the way for young black children to become whatever they want, even President of the United States.

At Lakeshore Beverage, we  are taking time to introduce you to one such person that grew up in the Chicagoland Area – Sam Ross. Sam grew up in Harvey, IL to two loving parents that taught him that community and where he came from should always be celebrated. They taught him hard work could lead him in the right direction to fulfill all of his dreams. 

He had no idea growing up that the beer industry was where his path would lead him, mostly because he didn’t even start drinking until 2015. He worked many different jobs throughout his life, even trying college but nothing seemed to fit. It wasn’t until he took a job at Whole Foods as a stacker that he found what he was passionate about in life, craft beer. With a little help from Lakeshore Beverage’s very own, Adam Lovinggood, he learned more about the beer industry and went from working at Whole Foods, eventually collaborating with Haymarket Brewery for Harold’s 83 Honey Ale.

Sam took the time to learn everything he could about the craft of making beer. As a self-taught brewer, he didn’t let the fact that he was a college drop out or the color of his skin stop him in an industry where he is the exception, not the rule. Even though the thoughts played with his mind more than he could count. He felt at times he did not have what it takes to add up to the people around him. He kept pushing because this was the dream he wanted to see come true, and he saw the bigger picture. 

That bigger picture was making a beer that was uniquely his and that could bridge the gap of two different communities. The community he grew up in and the beer world he had come to love. For Sam this was a very hard thing to do. In his community the beer world is looked at differently. “Beer is not celebrated in the black community as it is in other communities.” Sam says. “In most cases you find that we don’t drink beer, or we don’t understand the making of beer, and we go for the wines or the harder forms of liquor.” 

He would hear some people in his community say they did not like the taste of beer and he wanted to change that. So one thing he decided was to give his beer a sweeter taste. He wanted to bring the flavors that the people in the community were used to tasting, that reminded them of the good times at  family dinners and cook outs, without losing the true element of the beer. He made sure each world was brought together in a perfect harmony of beer.   

With every beer that Sam makes, he loves to tell a story. Harold’s 83 actually has a double meaning. Sam ties the story of the first black Mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, and the first black owned food establishment in Chicago, Harold’s Chicken Shack, together in a yellow can. Sam used his brew in the same way Harold Washington, and Harold’s Chicken Shack, to bridge a gap in communities. It’s one way he can give insight from one world to another. He’s able to open up dialogue through beer on subjects that most people might not even know anything about from one community to the next.       

After the collaboration with Haymarket on Harold’s 83 Honey Ale, Sam was offered a brewer position at Goose Island, where he now proudly works. Sam wants his hard work to stand for more than just the beer he makes, but for the stories they tell. For the barriers that he broke in the industry, and the gaps he has bridged together. He wants to give a generation of kids after him a vision that they can do more with their gifts if they just branch out to different industries. He wants to pave a new way, like those leaders before him, for his community.

So this Black History Month, Lakeshore Beverage would like to raise a beer to Sam Ross. Thank you for all the great work you do & the dedication you have, we look forward to what you do next!

Contributed by Ayisha Sims

Lakeshore Beverage