Not long after taking a job with a brewery in Southern Colorado, we received a phone call from a sister brew pub in Illinois. Their community had recently suffered a tragedy with the death of a young firefighter who had lost his life in the line of duty. A group of his comrades and friends were organizing a 1,123-mile motorcycle ride out to the International Foundation of Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs to attend the annual ceremony where his name would be etched into the wall, and were wondering if we might help out.
Brewers from both locations were asked to collaborate and brew a beer in memory of the fallen firefighter, so everyone could raise a pint to their friend whether at home or on the road. We also committed to having a portion of the proceeds go towards the Firefighter’s Memorial Fund to aid other firefighters and their families in times of tragedy.
Our brewer and I, along with a few others, were also invited to ride the last leg into town, meeting the group at the Colorado/Kansas state line. Thinking we were meeting a handful of people, I remember being blown away as about 40 motorcycles rumbled towards us on the interstate, motioning us to merge into line as we headed back toward the Rockies.
I do not recall how much money we raised, but I do recall sharing an emotional night with strangers, raising pints of “Beer for Boo” and swapping stories, laughing until it hurt, and sometimes wiping away tears. More importantly, I remember feeling that I was a part of something bigger than my job, something that really mattered.
Over my tenure in the brewing industry, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to help raise thousands of dollars for local charities that assist with the needs of people all over the world. Each fundraiser was unique, and every interaction was humbling.
Before leaving the brewery industry last year, my career sent me to Arizona early in 2013. Just a few months later, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots passed away while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire. Wanting to help out in any way possible, the local brewing community again got together, creating a limited-edition collaborative brew to help raise money. The end product was 120 barrels of “Heroes 19,” a brown-ale brewed with 19 hops, and the result was over $70,000 back to the families of the fallen firefighters.
A neighborhood brewpub is much more than a place to grab a pint, tell stories and hang out with family and friends. A true neighborhood brewpub is a place of pride that pours the best beer in the world. Not because the experts say so, but because you say so, and because you know it is about so much more than the beer in your glass.
Cheers to that!