Together we can brew some good

author Ryan Holt gives a cheers to the brewing community
Photo courtesy of Ryan Holt

After 25 years of homebrewing with friends, family, and neighbors, coaching eager new homebrewers, and winning over 60 medals for my beers, it was time for something new. It was time to reconnect with my community. It was time for some serious brewlanthropy!

Toward the end of 2021, still reeling from COVID isolation and itching to get back out into the real world, I reached out to a friend who owned a local nanobrewery to see about brewing a beer for charity. I decided to contact Yakima Valley Hops (YVH) to see if they would donate the hops to benefit Breast Cancer Awareness and they were on board immediately. We brewed the beer together and sold through “She’s a Real Gem” IPA in record time. This started the wheels turning — maybe I could reach out to other commercial breweries to collaborate in support of nonprofits in the community? I needed some incentive for breweries to agree to work with me. Perhaps I could supply ALL the raw materials?

I came up with a wild idea and I asked YVH if they would donate all the hops if I could organize 6 charity collaborations during 2022, and they responded in minutes with a resounding, YES! Next, I reached out to Imperial Yeast in Portland, Oregon, to see if they would provide the yeast for these collaborations, and you guessed it, they were on board. Then, I contacted LINC Malt in Spokane Valley, Washington, and practically before I could finish pitching my idea, they were ready to start sending pallets of grain wherever I needed!

Now, armed with literally tons of raw materials to brew massive amounts of beer for charity, I was ready to start contacting breweries to see how they felt about my idea. I knew I didn’t want to put any added stress on these breweries, who were still recovering from the pandemic, so I decided to keep it simple. It went something like this: Let’s brew a charity beer together! I’ll provide all the raw materials, we’ll decide on a style and recipe, choose a nonprofit that we’re passionate about supporting, brew the beer, and invite the community to support our endeavor. After the brewery sells through the beer, they make a donation to the chosen charity. Everyone feels good about the work they’ve done.

After the brewery sells through the beer, they make a donation to the chosen charity. Everyone feels good about the work they’ve done.

First, I reached out to my friends at Xicha Brewing in Salem, Oregon. We brewed 15 BBLs and supported Family Building Blocks, a local nonprofit that supports children and families in need. Then, I was in Portland, Oregon, to brew 20 BBLs with Ex Novo Brewing to support the local children’s theater. Next, I was in California at Bearded Tang Brewing to brew 15 BBLs to support a summer camp for children with disabilities. After that, I was back in Oregon with Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene to brew a lager in support of the CAHOOTS street crisis response team, and then over to Parallel 45 Brewing in Independence, Oregon, to collaborate on 10 BBLs to support families and children with developmental disabilities.

These initial collaborations in 2022 raised a hair under $10,000 in charitable donations supporting our communities. With the support of LINC, Imperial, and YVH, I have continued organizing with breweries for a second year, and have collaborated with Silver Falls Brewing, Zoiglhaus Brewing, Cascade Lakes Brewing, Ale Apothecary, and Gilgamesh Brewing over the last six months to support even more people in the community.

Organizing charity collaborations to raise money for local nonprofits has been rewarding and so much fun. With the amazing support from three industry brands, commercial breweries that are passionate about their communities, and a wild idea from a local homebrewer, it really is incredible what we can do when we come together to brew some good.

Issue: September 2023