Hops, Malt, and Heart: Beers with a Cause
As Dogfish Head Brewery’s Sam Calagione says, 99% of craft beer is asshole-free. A humanitarian nature is as inherently rooted in the foundation of craft beer as creativity, resourcefulness, patience, and a fine-tuned palate. Breweries are hubs of their communities, arguably more so than other kinds of businesses: they’re gathering places, spots where you can not only post up with friends and family, but where you can hold events and reach out to new people, building bridges and fostering connections. For that reason, the idea of drinking a craft IPA or saison has long gone hand in hand with fundraisers held in taprooms and beers’ sales proceeds benefiting different charities.
2020 has really raised the bar, though, just when we thought we couldn’t feel any more warm fuzzies from our favorite breweries. Between the immense need that the coronavirus pandemic has created and this year’s spiked awareness of police brutality and racial inequity, breweries are stepping up to prove that beer is more than just beer. Because of beer’s universal reach, it’s a powerful tool for change. It can raise money and awareness, it can get people talking, and it can help where help is needed most. Take, for example, one of this year’s first massive collaborations, All Together. Kickstarted by Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, this project so far has 855 breweries--including Non Sequitur Beer Project and Hoboken Brewing Company--in all 50 states and in 53 countries brewing their own riffs on one recipe in order to raise money for hospitality workers (whose livelihoods have been thrown into serious jeopardy because of Covid-19) in their individual communities.
Like all industries, craft beer has its work cut out for it in terms of improving diversity and representation from the ground up. But we’re seeing the motivation and determination from many breweries across the United States, and conversations are being fueled by different beer collaborations and projects that are funneling both money and advocacy back into the community. In a time when nearly all breweries are working harder than ever to keep the lights on because of this unprecedented pandemic, so many are still taking the time to think how they can contribute to a better world, and then putting that into action.
We’re feeling inspired by just how many beers we’re seeing that are tied to social justice causes and community causes. What could be better, truly, than drinking a delicious beer that’s actually doing something for humanity? Because of that, we’ve rounded up some “beers for good” that we’re really excited about, beers that are working to meet needs created this year as well as beers that were already in action for longstanding causes.
Black is Beautiful
Black is Beautiful was launched by Marcus Baskerville, co-founder and brewer of Weathered Souls Brewing Company in San Antonio.
“I was dealing with some of the frustrations that were going on with murders,” Baskerville told Forbes in June. “Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. All of these situations that keep arising.” Baskerville wanted to use his platform--beer--to help catalyze change. The system for Black is Beautiful is similar to All Together. Breweries can join in on the beer’s website to get a base recipe and label art. They can add their own twists, but Baskerville asks three things of participating breweries: that they donate 100% of the proceeds to their own “local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged,” that they “choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion,” and that they “commit to the long-term work of equality.”
Brooklyn’s Wild East Brewing Co. is one of the 1,120(!) breweries participating. Their Black is Beautiful beer is a Belgian stout brewed with New York state malt and hops and fermented with the brewery’s saison blend for flavors of chocolate, bread crust, stone fruit, caramel, and light roast coffee. Even better than that complex and irresistible mix is that 100% of this beer’s proceeds go to the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Meharry Medical College.
Back in April--appropriately on the 8th, which is National Beer Day, to be precise--Wisconsin brewery Ale Asylum announced their newest beer: Fuck Covid. The name surely resonated, and still does, with our collective sentiment regarding the pandemic.
“Never in my lifetime would I expect to witness something of this nature, but to also experience the sheer totality of each and every way this affects our staff, our community, and my family,” brewery co-founder Otto Dilba said in Ale Asylum’s press release. “The name may not be subtle, but it succinctly captures exactly how we (all of us) feel about this moment.”
Ale Asylum has already followed up the Fuck Covid pilsner with Fuck Covid 2.0, a hazy pale ale. $2 per case of beer sold goes to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, an organization devoted to aiding hospitality industry workers whose financial, physical, mental, and emotional safety have been jeopardized by Covid.
Long before the coronavirus turned our world upside down, Gay Beer launched with a purposeful philanthropic mission. Jon Moore and Jason Pazmino established the brand in December of 2018 and immediately set about not only making a delicious beer, but using that beer to connect with important causes in the LGBTQ+ community.
“A very important component of our whole business plan was to give back to the community not only from a visibility and inclusion standpoint, but to also go ahead and donate monetary resources, and to give back to the community,” Pazmino told us earlier this summer. “We support them in multiple ways, and they support us. It’s full circle.” In fact, Pazmino and Moore say that connecting with the community was goal number one, and that they realized one of the most wide-reaching ways to do that would be through beer--and a truly crowd-pleasing beer, at that.
Since the brand’s beginning, Gay Beer has raised both funds and awareness for hard-working organizations like The Center, Housing Works, Project Renewal, and the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Recently, they’ve been working with The Center for Black Equity.
Toast Ale is another brand formed with the mission to help save the world first, and to give that world great beer second (it should be said that Toast’s dedication to great beer is obvious in every sip of their perfectly balanced brews). The brewing company is working hard against hunger and for sustainability. They use surplus bread to replace barley in the brew, reducing the demand for land, water, and energy while avoiding emissions. They donate all profits to charity, “helping to deliver systemic change to fix the food system.” So far, Toast has donated 46,611 meals. They are also proud of the conversations they’re starting--cracking open a fresh Toast Ale beer inspires imbibers to get involved, themselves.
The Toast Craft Lager is a classic, crisp, and grainy example of the style, made contemporary with a hop-forward finish. It’s as impactful as it is tasty: for every six-pack of the Craft Lager purchased on TapRm, one meal gets donated to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Manhattan. Since May TapRm has donated 466 meals to Holy Apostles and will continue this campaign until Toast is sold out.
From stouts to lagers to pale ales, you’ve now got a beer shopping list you can feel extra good about. Have a drink and do your part to save the world a little--it’s never been easier or tasted better. Cheers to that.