Brewers give back to their community

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Maybe it’s because beer makers feel the need to fight the occasionally negative perception of alcohol with acts of kindness.

Or maybe it’s just that brewers are good people.

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t take much to find the spirit of goodwill at breweries this holiday season.

One example in Colorado could become a model for brewers nationwide. It’s called the Brewability Lab, a pilot program to teach developmentally disabled adults how to work in a brewery. Located at the Grandma’s House collaborative brewery in Denver, the program hires people with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities to work in a variety of jobs around the brewery. They do everything from mashing and shoveling spent grain to cleaning and serving.

“They’re fully capable of doing many of the tasks in a brewery,” said Brewability Lab founder Tiffany Fixter. She said that because developmentally disabled workers excel at repetitive tasks (following recipes or cleaning tanks), they’re a perfect fit for a brewhouse.

Community support has been important in getting the project off the ground, as a crowdfunding campaign raised funds for new equipment. There has been some opposition, Fixter said, mainly from those who are opposed to alcohol on principle. But all of the workers are of drinking age and, yes, some of them enjoy a good beer.

If it works, Fixter said, she hopes to eventually move the Brewability Lab into its own facility and possibly franchise the concept.

As I noted, the do-gooder spirit is not uncommon in the beer business. Here’s a shout-out to a few other good deeds from 2015:

  • Yards Brewing sent $1 for every case of PYNK tart berry ale it sold to the Tyanna Foundation, which raises funds for breast cancer research. It raised $13,000 this year.
  • Anheuser-Busch temporarily shut down beer production at its plant in Georgia in May to can water for storm victims in Texas and Georgia.
  • Harrisburg Beer Week, run by volunteers, donates all its proceeds to Harrisburg River Rescue. This year it raised $20,000 for the organization.
  • Green Flash Brewing in San Diego sends a portion of proceeds from the sale of its Treasure Chest India Pale Ale to breast cancer charities. It’s already raised more than $150,000.
  • Also in San Diego, more than 20 local brewers started the Beer to the Rescue charity program that sold beer in support of lupus research. Among the special beers brewed for the cause: a Belgian-style Christmas beer called AleSmith NO-L.
  • Conshohocken Brewery opens its doors to charitable organizations every Tuesday night. Got a favorite cause? You can host your own event in the brewery’s tasting room, and Conshy will chip in a portion of its sales for the evening.
  • New Belgium’s 16-year-old Tour de Fat, an annual nationwide bicycle tour promoting sustainability, announced this year that it had topped the $4 million mark in contributions.
  • Forgotten Boardwalk in Cherry Hill created its own Don’t Be Naughty charitable foundation to support various causes, including the Living Kidney Donors Network. Profits from the two Skee-ball machines in the tasting room go to the Pink Boots Society, an organization promoting women in the brewing industry, as well as the Food Bank of South Jersey.
  • Dozens of brewers nationwide donate one-of-a-kind brews to the annual Denver Rare Beer Tasting to support the Pints for Prostates campaign. In the last five years, the program has raised about $1 million for prostate cancer programs and to raise awareness about health screenings for men.
  • Boston Beer Co. committed $250,000 for microloans and mentoring to small businesses under its Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream loan fund.
  • Sly Fox raised more than $4,000 for improvements to the Schuylkill River Trail through sales of SRT Ale.
  • All this giving kinda makes you feel like beer drinking is actually a good deed.


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