Beer For a Cause

Whether its was helping provide water for hurricane victims in Texas or raising money to aid the hungry in Michigan, the nation’s breweries gave big to charity this year.

Concrete Beach Havana Lager

Concrete Beach Havana Lager

During the holiday season, breweries are doing even more to help the less fortunate. A few examples:

  • Broken Goblet Brewing in Bucks County, Philadelphia on Dec. 16 is throwing a Reverse Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS. It will be selling two special cask ales –and all sales will go to the charity with a goal of raising at least $500. If they hit their goal, the owners promise to take a dip in an ice water pool.
  • Fairhope Brewing Co. in Fairhope, Ala. will be hosting its 12 Bartenders of Christmas event throughout December, with local celebrities to raise money for area non profits through tips and donation.
  • In Seattle, Elysian Brewing is donating all proceeds from its Wicked Frappe Blackberry Milkshake IPA sold at its brewery locations to Northwest Harvest to help end hunger in Washington state.
  • In Miami, Concrete Beach Brewery is donating $1 from every 6-pack sold (up to $5,000) at participating retailers to help feed the hungry in South Florida.
  • In Colorado, Breckenridge Brewery is giving proceeds for each brewery tour to Project Sanctuary, a group that operates retreats and programs for military families.

“American craft brewers are not just good at making amazing, flavorful beer—they are also great at using their beer as a force for good,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association. Craft brewers donated an estimated $73.4 million to charitable causes in 2016, up from $71 million in 2014, the Brewers Association says. That figure should be even higher this year with the growth in number and size of craft brewers.

Mitten Brewing raises money for Feeding America West Michigan

Mitten Brewing raises money for Feeding America West Michigan

Beer Events For Charity

Along with becoming local meeting places, craft breweries have become the go-to organization in many communities to organize and host charitable events.

In the self-proclaimed Beer City, USA, Grand Rapids, Mich., 11 western Michigan breweries, bars and restaurants are working to raise money for the Hops Against Hunger campaign. Grand Rapids breweries HopCat, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Creston Brewery, Mitten Brewing Company and Harmony Hall are participating in the effort alongside Muskegon's Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, Grand Haven's Grand Armory Brewing Company, Zeeland's Tripelroot and New Holland Brewing Company's Holland location.

“We loved the idea of throwing brewery fundraisers into the mix and hopefully reaching a lot of people who might be totally new to food banking and hunger relief," said Sean Little, development associate with Feeding American West Michigan, a regional food bank. "As we've begun building relationships with breweries, we've found that it's an easy sell. They really care about this issue." So far, the campaign has raised over $45,000 for the state’s food banks.

Each brewery donated proceeds from special one-off events or month-long promotions to the Feeding America-member food bank serving their community. Creston Brewery in Grand Rapids donated 15 percent of the day’s food and drink sales to Feeding America West Michigan, raising $473, enough for the organization to distribute nearly 1,900 meals. “As a new brewery, we want to set the standard for community involvement,” said Brianne Ross, Creston’s taproom manager. “We believe that it is a team effort to help neighborhoods and cities flourish, so we take a personal stance on what we can do to make a positive impact so that other breweries will follow suit.”

Several New Mexico breweries are holding their own Hops Against Hunger as well including Steel Bender Brewyard and Sante Fe Brewing. From Nov. 1 until Dec 9, breweries donated proceeds from a designated beer to Storehouse New Mexico, the largest food pantry in the state.

Other Ways Breweries Show They Care

Helping the less fortunate is not just about giving money for some breweries — its also about giving their time. Harpoon Helps, the charitable arm of Boston-based Harpoon Brewery is sending staffers and volunteers into area shelters, soup kitchens and play stations to decorate for the holidays and spread some holiday cheer. Harpoon officials said giving back to local groups is way of being a good neighbor. “Each year, we donate thousands of dollars in swag and many barrels of beer to New England charities,” the brewery says on its website. “Additionally, we raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through our marquee fundraising events at our breweries.” Harpoon Brewery’s Grateful Harvest Ale is a New England cranberry ale brewed each year for Thanksgiving. The Boston brewery makes a $1 donation for every 6-pack of Grateful Ale sold to a local food bank in the area in which the beer is purchased.

Some breweries raise money during the holidays and let their customers decide where the money goes. Birdsview Brewing in Birdsview, Washington does just this. For all of December, when customers buy a pint on Fridays, they get a token worth 50 cents and they can give to charity of choice. Birdsview got the idea from Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire, which has run a similar program for years.

Breweries and dogs go together like peanut butter and jelly so its no surprise breweries remember to help the canines during the holiday season. In Bend, Oregon, Immersion Brewing & the American Cancer Society teamed up on Dec. 6 for Bark n' Brew. The special Brew-it-Yourself session donated a portion of the proceeds to the Cancer Society’s Bark for Life Program that recognizes the impact of cancer on dogs and honors the life-long contributions of canine caregivers.

Breweries also make time to help children during the holidays. In Cincinnati, Braxton Brewing on Dec. 14 joined Graeter’s Ice Cream and Build-A-Bear Workshop to assemble furry friends for the St. Joseph's Orphanage. The $24 ticket to the event including the opportunity to Build-A Bear, have a beer and make a priceless gift of comfort to a child in the St. Joseph’s emergency placement program.

Hardywood Park Craft Breweryin Richmond on Dec. 10 held its 4th annual Brew-Ho-Ho to celebrate local authors and local beer. Along with Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Hardywood will donate 10 percent of sales to the Virginia Children’s Book Festival.

Giving Beyond the Holiday Season

The charitable giving by breweries, of course, continues well past the holiday season. Starr Hill Brewing in Crozet, Va. in January kicks off its Beers with Benefits. Starr Hill will donate 25 cents for every case of beer sold in Virginia of its flagship brands (Northern Lights IPA, Grateful Pale Ale, and The Love Wheat Beer) in package and on draft. The money will go to a different charity every three months. For January-March, the donations will go to Mended Little Hearts of Virginia, a non profit that helps children with congestive heart failure. Starr Hill expects the program to raise $25,000 in 2018 for charities.The brewery hopes the program will not only raise money but draw more attention to important charities in Virginia.

That’s the craft brewery business in a nutshell — borrowing good ideas from each other to help give back to their communities. Cheers!