Booze | April 15, 2021 3:52 pm

Molson Coors Buys Into a Brewery Staffed by Rival Gang Members

TRU Colors is a rapidly expanding North Carolina brewery on a mission to reduce street violence

Three glasses of beer held in three hands representing three different gangs. Former gang members work together at TRU Colors in North Carolina.
Bloods, Crips and GDs work together at TRU Colors brewery.
TRU Colors

Molson Coors Beverage Company is acquiring a minority stake in TRU Colors, a North Carolina brewery staffed and managed almost entirely by former gang members, according to Forbes.

As the TRU Colors website notes, the brewery vision is “achieved by uniting rival gangs, decreasing gun violence, and bettering ourselves and our communities.” The idea for the business was the result of a terrible incident where a 16-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting related to a gang dispute, which took place a few blocks from founder George Taylor’s office in Wilmington, N.C. Taylor, who co-founded the Untappd beer app, then spent the next two years meeting with gangs in the area and fostering a relationship. This eventually led to the foundation of TRU.

“Most people don’t expect a gang member to be brewing beer,” Juan “Press” Bethea, TRU’s brewing operations manager and a leader in the local Bloods gang, told the Molson Coors blog Beer & Beyond. “What excites me about working at TRU Colors is just seeing guys take advantage of the opportunity, and being in a place where I can actually help and I feel like I’m giving back to my community, as well as providing for my family.”

“Last summer we said we were committed to meaningful long-term change inside and outside our business and would make better efforts  to leave a positive impact in communities throughout the country,” said Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley. “This partnership represents an opportunity to not only invest in what we believe will be a successful business, but also in a brand with a strong social justice presence that will have an immeasurable positive impact on hundreds of lives.”

As Forbes describes, new employees start out with a full salary and benefits, but begin with two months of a “boot camp” that includes conflict resolution (where rival gang members are often partnered up) as well as three-month internships in different brewery departments.

TRU Light beer from TRU Colors brewery, on sale in 2021
The first release from TRU Colors will arrive this year
TRU Colors

As for the beer, the brewery is currently completing a 56,000-square-foot production brewery in Wilmington and will soon begin distribution of TRU Light, a 95-calorie lager. It will debut in North Carolina and Virginia this summer, with national expansion expected in 2022.