Yurok Tribe Brewery Takes On MLB

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  • Facebook Mad River Brewery
  • Mad River Brewing CEO Linda Cooley with permission.

The San Francisco Giants’ home stadium, Oracle Park, will now sell three craft beers from a brewery owned by the Yurok tribe. This is the first such partnership with a Major League Baseball franchise.

Linda Cooley, CEO of Mad River Brewing Co. Inc., said the partnership represents the sovereignty of the Yurok Tribe being taken seriously and having a positive relationship with a professional sports team.

“It’s one of those things that you think will never happen. We’re never going to be at that level of recognition or taken seriously. It looks like we are either tokenized or considered just for casinos or funny memes,” the Yurok Tribe citizen said.

Towards the end of the summer of 2021, the brewery began looking for other avenues to take on the business and saw how the baseball team embraced diversity.

The Giants have hosted a Native American Heritage Night for more than a decade, which the brewery plans to attend this year. Team hired Alyssa Nakken as MLB’s first full-time female coach, stadium hosts LGBTQ night and ‘Until there’s a day to heal’ event that raises awareness of HIV and HIV AIDS.

Notably, the team implemented a way for fans to contact security after an incident at the Giants’ Native American heritage night in 2014.

“Any fan wearing culturally insensitive attire, using obscene or abusive language, engaging in antisocial conduct that is offensive to those around them, or displaying any other offensive behavior is subject to ejection from the stadium,” according to the team’s website. .

Fans can text “FOUL” to 69050 if they witness such behavior.

“They’ve been so inclusive of all these different ethnicities and we thought maybe we could take Indigenous people to the next level with them,” Cooley said.

The deal will last for two years and the drinks will be sold at several locations in the stadium. The Mad River Brewing logo will also be displayed on illuminated signs throughout the stadium.

“We are delighted to welcome Mad River Brewery to our portfolio of corporate partnerships. Our organization is committed to promoting and celebrating our diverse community, and in partnership with Mad River, we can help give Indigenous peoples a presence beyond their borders,” said Jessica Santamaria, Director of Partnerships and media to the San Francisco Giants, in a press. Release. “Working with Mad River Brewery is a priority to showcase smaller, non-traditional brands alongside our own.”

The three drinks that will be on offer are: the Historic State Park IPA, which highlights the tribe’s partnership with California State Parks to return native names to the parks; Steelhead Extra Pale Ale; and Undammed Huckleberry Hopped Hard Seltzer, which represents the tribe’s work to remove dams on the Klamath River, the huckleberry being indigenous to Humboldt County and what the Yurok Tribe ate for a very long time.

“Water is one of the most important things we fight for in Northern California,” Cooley said.

How it happened

The Yurok Agriculture Corporation purchased Mad River Brewing in October 2019. The independent craft brewery has been established for over three decades and has won countless industry awards.

In an effort to rebrand, the brewery took a “shot in the dark”, found the contact person on LinkedIn and pitched their idea. Immediately, the Giants contacted them again. The goals, struggles and mission of the Yurok Tribe have been discussed in depth.

“To be able to start that way and hopefully we see more of that and have other stadiums that have that, it’s amazing. It’s a dream come true,” Cooley said.

Then came the Major League Baseball lockout that lasted four months until March 10. The deal was still confirmed, but all that remained was to wait for the lockout to end for the company.

Cooley said they were thrilled with the resumption of the baseball season. Company and Tribe employees plan to attend Game 1 against the Miami Marlins on April 8 at Oracle Park.

She looks forward to seeing people’s reaction to the product and seeing what they can improve on.

“Being able to go out and interact with people who drink it and be able to talk to them is really exciting – getting those live comments and taking them and being able to tell people myself why we are here and what we are doing,” she says. .

They are also planning a live tasting in April.

She said the company had spoken with another professional sports team, but could not reveal who it was. She hopes to partner with the NBA and NFL in the future.

Tribal Commitment

Cooley said the response from the Yurok Tribe community and around the world has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Being told we can’t do certain things because we’re indigenous, and that’s just not true, that’s a lie, that’s a form of repression. Coming out of this is something we can all celebrate, regardless of your ethnicity,” she said.

The company is also working with Ioway Farms, which is owned and operated by the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, to supply ingredients to brewery operations to have a “more inclusive product.”

The company is still engaged in inter-tribal affairs, such as casinos and other tribal-owned businesses. They hope to refocus on this soon.

“Supporting each other should be first and foremost,” Cooley said.

“It’s not just about brewing”

Cooley started working in the beer industry on his 21st birthday. She originally planned to be a social worker, but chose a different path due to the stressful nature of her job.

She said her colleagues in the beer business became like family and she had fun. She was fascinated by the variety of skills needed to make the business a reality.

“I’ve tried to get out a few times, and it keeps pulling me back. It’s a time to sit down with people you love and share stories. It’s an art to create these drinks, alcoholic or not. To speak with the people who grow your ingredients, the art on the labels, where it goes and who you support,” she said.

Cooley’s advice to other tribes looking to get into the beer industry is to find someone who has extensive experience in the beer industry.

“It’s not just a matter of brewing, it’s sales, it’s distribution, it’s marketing. It’s having that full vision,” she said.

And to understand what you want to share about your culture and what you don’t. She added that it is important to reach out and talk with your people.

Mad River Brewing has moved away from craft beer; ownership of the Yurok tribe allowed them to tell their story.

“Now with Mad River, it pushes me to not only tell my story, as a ground floor girl, but for Indigenous people to bring down these lies and false narratives,” Cooley said.

Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer in the Phoenix bureau of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at [email protected] Benallie was once the opening act for a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas.