Beer Scout: Giving back with brews

HOLIDAY CHEER: Appalachian Vintner co-owner Charles Alexander, right, and employees Joel Clark, left, and Matt Levin show off the store’s auction display. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Entering its eighth year, Appalachian Vintner’s annual silent charity auction is bigger than ever. With over 50 beer- and wine-related items on offer, this year’s contributions to the Olson Huff Center at Mission Children’s Hospital and Arts for Life promise to be substantial. The Huff Center specializes in developmental and behavioral therapies for children that incorporate families in the process, and Arts For Life is a nonprofit that provides educational art programs for children facing serious illness or disability.

For Vintner co-owners Geoff and Charles Alexander, philanthropy has been a part of their business from the beginning. Since holding their first charity auction in 2009, the Alexander brothers have donated money and equipment to local nonprofits ranging from Brother Wolf Animal Rescue to Habitat for Humanity to the Asheville Area Art Council and MANNA FoodBank. The brothers routinely raise funds for Pisgah Legal Services and founded the Puzzle Pieces Project, a nonprofit dedicated to autism awareness and research.

The charities Appalachian Vintner supports have often been chosen based on events in the Alexanders’ personal lives. The brothers’ first auction was held to benefit CarePartners Hospice in response to the role hospice services played in their grandmother’s protracted battle with cancer in the late ’90s. And their continued support of Mission Children’s Hospital and the Huff Center stems from those institutions’ efforts with Geoff’s son, who has struggled with health problems throughout this life and is on the autism spectrum.

“Our goal has always been to have a positive impact on people whose lives have been disrupted by illness,” says Geoff. “It’s easy to get caught up in negativity and pessimism when a loved one is afflicted with medical problems, and we feel it’s important to contribute whatever we can to helping people achieve a positive outcome in dark times.”

Charles adds, “There are so many families that are affected by sick or special needs children — in times of need, it’s very difficult for them to cope with what’s going on in their lives. It’s important for us to be able to contribute something to them, whether that’s equipment or educational resources or financial support for the organizations that help them.”

Auction items are donated from local breweries and wineries as well as beer and wine distributors, and 100 percent of the money raised through the auction is donated each year, either through direct cash contributions or through the procurement of much-needed tangible assets such as iPads and arts supplies. Geoff’s partner, Shelly Friesland, is tasked with managing the disbursement of resources and coordinating with the charitable organizations.

This year’s auction includes a host of interesting lots from beer and wine producers worldwide, as well as from Asheville-area breweries of all sizes. Gift cards and glassware from Zebulon, Fonta Flora, Wicked Weed and Burial are available, as well as wall hangings and metal signage from over a dozen breweries. There are also special beers to bid on, including a 3-liter jeroboam of St. Feuillien Triple and a vertical of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine spanning from 2006-16 donated by the brewery’s Western North Carolina area manager, T.J. Gardner.

More esoteric items include a Hi-Wire VIP tour experience, an Oskar Blues-branded ENO DoubleNest two-person hammock and a signed hat worn by Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman. For wine drinkers, there are magnums of Fontanavecchia and a gift set valued at over $350 donated by the Biltmore Wine Co. that includes three bottles of wine, two books and two tickets to the Biltmore Estate.

Auction items are on display at Appalachian Vintner in Biltmore Village, and bids are being accepted now. Final bids must be submitted by close of business on New Year’s Eve, with winning bids announced on Monday, Jan. 2. Most items have low minimums, with suggested bidding increments of $5.

“We really want people to come down and support these worthwhile charities. It’s an easy, fun way to give a little back and get something awesome in return,” says Charles. “You can get some supercool beer swag from the major breweries here in town and some of the smaller guys as well, all while helping out children at the same time.”

Geoff reiterates the brothers’ altruistic aims: “It’s our duty to help the vulnerable in society, the young and the elderly and the sick. Especially this time of year, people want to celebrate with a beer or a glass of wine or anything fermented,  so why not try to incorporate charitable giving into the party? It’s a chance to give something back, to contribute in a positive way.”


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