A new wave of beer-centered fundraising events is poised to hit the Asheville craft beer scene. The inaugural Hops for Hunger program, a collaborative effort between MANNA FoodBank and area breweries will launch the first week of July.
This is MANNA’s first official initiative that taps into Asheville’s brewing culture, says Kara Irani, director of marketing and communications at MANNA. “We know how big the beer scene is, and we know how supportive the breweries tend to be of lots of the community issues and helping local organizations. We’re just superexcited that this is one of our first programs.”
From July 1-9, each participating brewery will donate $1 to the nonprofit from every pint sold of a designated MANNA beer, Irani says. Additionally, partner breweries can opt to host a food drive barrel to collect canned food donations, as well as host an on-site MANNA ambassador at their taprooms for a day to explain what the organization does in the community.
“For each dollar that comes through our door, we can provide 3 1/2 meals to people who are hungry,” Irani says. “Every single beer can potentially feed three people, if not more. It’s a really, really great impact for each beer — we’re saying that all of these pints have purpose.”
The summer months are a rough time for thousands of families in the area who rely on free and reduced-price school lunches to feed their children during the school year. “When kids are out of school for the summer, it puts extra pressure on those families, and they really have to scramble to make ends meet,” Irani says. “We really worked with breweries about doing this during the summer specifically to address the tighter summer months because we know we need extra support over the summer.”
Brandi Hillman, an owner of the newly opened Hillman Brewing, says the event embodies “what Asheville is all about.” Hillman Brewing chose its Belgian Pale Ale to be the designated MANNA beer. It will also host a MANNA ambassador Monday, July 3, and food drive barrels throughout the week.
“From the beginning, we wanted to support our immediate community, areas like Shiloh and Oakley. And MANNA does so much in those areas, so it was a no-brainer for us to support those who support us,” she says. “At first, it was a little scary committing because we still have bills to pay and that kind of stuff, but supporting these local nonprofits has always been a very important part of our business plan.”
Luke Dickinson, founder of Wicked Weed Brewing Co., also feels the importance of supporting community nonprofits. Wicked Weed is a year-round supporter of MANNA and is stepping up its game by brewing 15 barrels of a special beer for the event. Simply called MANNA, the beer will be a “neat honey beer with avocados, pears and orange blossom,” he says, estimating that Wicked Weed will pour roughly 1,200 pints of the special batch.
“We always see a really positive movement from our clientele with any of our charitable donation events that we do,” Dickinson says. “Our customers are there to have a beer anyway, but when they can contribute to a great cause without spending more money, it makes them feel great.”
Lisa Schutz, co-owner of One World Brewing, is excited to participate, as the event mirrors the brewery’s goal of bringing social action and awareness into the thriving brewery scene. “People primarily come to the brewery in good spirits to have a good time and be social, and I find it makes it that much more of an enjoyable experience when our customers have the option to contribute to those in need.”
As of the time of publication, participating breweries during the nine-day effort include Hillman Brewing, Wicked Weed, One World Brewing, Wedge Brewing, Hi-Wire Brewing, Highland Brewing, Frog Level Brewing, Catawba Brewing, Bhramari Brewhouse, French Broad Brewing, Fifth Season and Asheville Brewing — an outpouring of support that Irani says is incredible to see.
“One in six people don’t have access to the food they need; one in four children are hungry at some point during the year. Those kind of statistics are unacceptable to us, and it’s wonderful to have the brewery support — it’s just a fabulous way for us to engage with people outside our area as well as with locals, and they’re just really helping us out with a key market that is really hard for nonprofits to tap in general.”
A Hops for Hunger kickoff event will be held Friday, June 30, at 3:30 p.m. at Milepost 408 wine and beer bar at the Hampton Inn in Biltmore Village. The initiative will run July 1-9. For an updated list of participating breweries and MANNA-designated drafts, visit MannaFoodBank.org.