Carolina Beer Guy: Breweries help community during pandemic

GOOD NEIGHBORS: The new "Stay Home/Stay Asheville" IPA will be released on Saturday, April 25, to raise money for coronavirus relief. Image courtesy Riverbend Malt House

With business closures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic crushing the community, Asheville’s breweries are finding ways to help those in need. Some are raising funds for charitable organizations and the unemployed, while others are distributing meals to the hungry.

Now there’s a local one-off collaborative beer for coronavirus relief. The Stay Home/Stay Asheville IPA project was organized by Brent Manning, co-founder of Riverbend Malt House. He pulled together a team that includes Archetype Brewing, Bhramari Brewing Co., DSSOLVR, New Belgium Brewing Co., Twin Leaf Brewery and White Labs Asheville. The beer will be released Saturday, April 25, in four-packs of 16-ounce cans at Archetype’s West Asheville location and at Bhramari — the entire supply was sold out by the following afternoon.

The four-packs are $15, and all of the proceeds go to New Belgium’s Bar and Restaurant Relief Fund, which is raising money for furloughed food and beverage workers in Asheville and Fort Collins, Colo., home to New Belgium’s original brewery. According to Manning, all of the funds from the collaborative beer sales will stay in Asheville.

In creating the relief fund, New Belgium community and communications ambassador Michael Craft says, the brewery wanted to “take care of the people who were serving our beers” before restaurants, taprooms and music venues were shut down by the pandemic.

New Belgium seeded the fund with $50,000 and has committed to match donations up to an additional $50,000. Thanks to contributions primarily from individual donors, the fund currently stands at more than $227,000. Donations can be made online or by texting NBBGives to 44321.

The Bar and Restaurant Relief Fund has already distributed $350 checks to 240 people. “And because of Brent’s idea [for the collaborative beer], it looks like we’ll be able to do another round of checks,” Craft says.

Another big contribution to relief efforts is coming from Wicked Weed Brewing, which is donating $50,000 — split three ways — to the One Buncombe fund, the N.C. Restaurant Workers Relief Fund and the YMCA of WNC Emergency Response Fund.

Wicked Weed is also preparing and distributing hundreds of meals each week to people in need. The meals are being distributed through the YMCA of WNC, and the project loops in US Foods, Hickory Nut Gap Meats and Apple Brandy Farms. The program has grown tremendously in a short time from 900 weekly meals to 1,500, and again to 3,000, thanks in large part to an anonymous donor’s $225,000 gift.

“Wicked Weed has always been community-focused,” says Rachel Dudasik, the brewery’s philanthropy coordinator. “So when [the COVID-19 pandemic] happened, it was a no-brainer that we wanted to help out. It was just figuring out the best way to help out — and that meant food, beer and taking care of the community.”

Elsewhere, Highland Brewing Co. is donating 10% of its curbside brewery beer sales to the One Buncombe fund and continuing its food drive for MANNA Food Bank at its curbside. Asheville’s oldest brewery has also instituted a medical professionals membership program that allows local medical care providers to receive 15% off all beer-to-go purchases at the brewery through the end of 2020.

The brewery’s to-go beer sales have been strong, says company president Leah Wong Ashburn. “We felt like we could take a piece of that and give it back to what is mostly the hospitality industry,” she says. “Those are the people who have been buying, selling and serving Highland beers, perhaps for decades.”


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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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