Ted Mack and America’s First Black-Owned Brewery: The Rise and Fall of Peoples Beer

Born to a sharecropper mother in rural Alabama in 1930, Theodore (Ted) Mack had already defied the odds by fighting in the Korean War, playing football on scholarship at powerhouse Ohio State, earning a college degree, and becoming a successful businessman. Brewing and selling beer, he believed, would be just another peak to summit. After all, it couldn’t have been more challenging than organizing the buses to the March on Washington D.C., or picketing segregated schools in Milwaukee.

However, he underestimated the subtle bigotry of middle America, the cultural importance of beer in Wisconsin, the corruption of the beer industry, and of the failures of the Federal Government and the Small Business Administration. The story of Ted Mack and Peoples Beer is an against-all-odds tale of innovation and pride at a time when America was at an important crossroads, and it serves as an inspirational story of Black entrepreneurship and courage.

“Peoples Beer: Brewing and Bigotry in America” is based on archival research, corporate records from Peoples Brewing Company, newspaper articles, and interviews with family members, townspeople, and former workers in the industry. Race and beer are two immensely intriguing topics in America today, and in this book they collide for the first time.

What Others Are Saying

“Mr. Lanier’s portrait of Theodore Mack’s efforts to use People’s Beer as a vehicle for racial equity fifty years ago is an important contribution…. This is an excellent book, a poignant one, and it tells an important story. It has already begun to shape my thinking about the beer industry in the United States.”—Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible

“Clint Lanier rummages through decades of history, tosses the myths, and unpacks the context to bring Ted Mack Sr.’s improbable story to a modern audience in this deeply researched and briskly written book. You find yourself rooting for Mack and his Peoples Brewery, and also gain insight into the arc of American brewing over the past century. It is the sort of book that surprises even the aficionados among us. Highly recommended.”—Tom Acitelli, author of The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution

“This is the history of Peoples Beer, and like the very best beer history, it is much more than the history of a brewery: it’s the story, both fascinating and appalling, of a struggle for justice against prejudice.”—Martyn Cornell, author of Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers

“Theodore “Teddy” Mac was a Black entrepreneur with a warm heart and a big personality who dared to believe in the American dream, only to have his hard work smashed by a cutthroat brewing industry and corrupt political system. Unflinching and beautifully researched, Clint Lanier masterfully tells a story of a man who endured hardship his entire life only to emerge stronger through the sheer will of the American spirit. Ultimately, People’s Beer is a poignant commentary on systemic racism wrapped in an inspiring story of entrepreneurialism and beer.”—John McCarthy, author of Whiskey Rebels: The Dreamers, Visionaries, and Badasses Who Are Revolutionizing American Whiskey