As the destructive Camp Fires of California continue to destroy entire communities, the brewing community has come together to offer their skills, labor, and beer to help in the relief effort.
Flames threatened their Chico brewery while Sierra Nevada sent out a call for help. Their plan was to brew Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, donate 100% of the proceeds to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, and get friends in the industry to do the same. Over 1,400 breweries answered the call and signed up to participate in brewing, selling, and donating the funds from their own Resilience IPAs. Suppliers stepped up and donated ingredients, and those that couldn’t brew it themselves donated resources and labor.
Jeff Mason— Operations Manager at Ska Brewing and previous Sierra Nevada employee of twenty-five years— described the nightmare some of his extended family endured. “It was a horrifying scene as they drove through what seemed a continuous wall of flames and a blast-furnace of cherry-bomb embers. It looked as there was no way out and no way back. Everything else they owned was lost in that terrible blaze, including their pets,” Mason reiterates. “I also have dozens of friends and former co-workers from Sierra Nevada who experienced the same type personal loss. Everything they owned is just gone.” As the Camp Fires roared through California, the Ska leadership team looked for what they could do to help. The next day Ska received the call for help from Sierra Nevada.
Microbreweries have also been able to support relief efforts by hosting and joining collaborations as a way to combine space and resources. Woods Boss Brewing was able to coordinate and facilitate a collaboration with nine other local breweries including as Westfax, Joyride, and Resolute Brewing. This particular tragedy hit close to home for Woods Boss owner and head brewer, Jordan Fink. The name ‘Woods Boss Brewing’ was inspired by a nickname Fink acquired during the years he spent working for the US Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter and signifies the importance of wildlife restoration, collaboration, and community support that have been as cornerstones of his business from the beginning.
“Collaborations are opportunities to try new things, step out of our comfort zones, brew smaller batches, continue education, and cross promote within the industry,” explains Fink. “Everyone should help each other out. That’s the way the world should work in all things. Since that’s not realistic, the least we can do is make an effort toward that a reality in our industry.” Each of the ten collaborating breweries have punch cards available to encourage customers to visit brewery involved and drink towards prizes.
Knowing the support of the industry would be reciprocated is another driving force behind breweries participation. As one of the world’s first breweries to pursue collaborations, Brooklyn Brewery is proud that brewing collaborations have become a big part of the craft beer culture. “Over the years Sierra Nevada Brewing has exemplified the spirit of cooperation between craft brewers,” explains Brooklyn Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver. “We know that if something like this happened in New York City, Sierra Nevada and the people of California would answer the call for us – we’re glad to be there for them.”
For some, the driving forces are deeply personal—a friend or themselves losing everything, an employee with family in California, or a close friendship with industry colleagues directly effected by the devastation. Chris Labbe, of Periodic Brewery, had personally spent time with key members of Sierra Nevada and felt compelled for his brewery to participate. “Sierra Nevada has been an important part of the growth of craft beer,” explains Labbe. “And they continue providing support and education throughout the industry.”
Regardless of connection or significance, the craft beer community continues to show their strength, passion, selflessness, and camaraderie through out the country as they build hope with beer.
“This is not about us, “explains Jordan Fink. “It’s about building and supporting an entire community that doesn’t exist anymore.”