Local breweries aiming to raise $100,000+ for CA wildfire victims

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Breweries in and around Austin have been brewing and selling the same beer, then donating 100 percent of sales to victims of the Camp Fire in California that claimed dozens of lives and tens of thousands of homes and other structures.

So far, the breweries KXAN reached have raised nearly $33,000 for the cause. The 14 breweries that responded to KXAN requests estimate that once all their beer sells, the total will top $100,000.

(Scroll down in this story for a list of participating breweries and how much they’ve raised so far.)

“It’s not a hard sell,” said Will Golden, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Austin Beerworks. “You tell people what it is, who we did it with, and what it’s going to, and, I mean, that’s just a super easy sale.”

The beer, Resilience IPA, comes from a recipe developed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, whose brewery is located in the same county where the fire did its damage.

The company put out the call across the country, and nearly 1,500 breweries agreed to make batches of Resilience and donate the money it brought in. Many of them launched in mid-to-late December, but some have only hit the taps in recent days.

Golden said they jumped at the chance to help. The brewery has sold nearly half of the beer made, totaling about $4,000 so far in donations.

“I’d say 95 percent of craft brewers have some story about Sierra Nevada influencing them to get to where they’ve been,” he said. “When Sierra comes calling, you help.”

Whitestone Brewery in Cedar Park, which released its version on New Year’s Eve, is hosting a party Thursday with representatives from Sierra Nevada to celebrate their brew and to help jumpstart sales. Cedar Park firefighters will be on hand as well to promote the drink and cause.

Sierra Nevada pulled a lot of strings to make the nationwide brew happen, including convincing hops and malt distributors to donate supplies, helping to convince some craft breweries to invest the time and energy.

“Those kinds of things on large scales tend to be difficult for smaller businesses to do,” said Stephen Wagner, head brewer at Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse. The brewpub debuted its version of Resilience a couple weeks ago, and it’s become the second-best-selling draft they offer.

Wagner said it accounts for about 15 percent of their total sales in the last two weeks, “so it’s doing pretty well. You know, we’ve been spreading the word. Our servers know, they’re telling everybody, ‘Hey, this is for a good cause.'”

“Plus it’s really good beer, too,” he added.

The $3,700 Uncle Billy’s has raised so far will contribute to the $10-15 million total expected to be raised in the nationwide campaign. Even though he doesn’t have a personal connection to the Camp Fire, Wagner said he understands the devastation a natural disaster can leave in its wake from his time living in Houston.

“We’ve had some big floods there obviously in recent years, so I know that those things can kind of come out of nowhere and they can really mess with people,” he said.

The fundraising is just beginning for a number of participating breweries. St. Elmo Brewing Company was the only place KXAN spoke to that said that they are almost out of the Resilience IPA. The other 13 said they were either at or far under half sold.

Two local breweries, Suds Monkey Brewing Company in Dripping Springs and Two Wheel Brewing Company in Buda, plan to release their batches this weekend.

Participating breweries

  • Austin Beerworks: 7 barrels brewed; 3 barrels sold; $4,000 raised
  • The Brewtorium: 8 barrels brewed; almost 3 barrels sold; $1,800 raised
  • Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co.: 4.25 barrels brewed; 60% sold; $2,600 raised
  • St. Elmo Brewing Co.: 7 barrels brewed; almost all sold; $8,000 raised
  • Whitestone Brewery: 13 barrels brewed; 1-1.5 barrels sold; $1,400 raised
  • Skull Mechanix Brewing: 10 barrels brewed; 2 barrels sold; $2,160 raised
  • Bluebonnet Beer Company: 3 barrels brewed; 1 barrel sold
  • Celis Brewery: 10 barrels brewed; 1 barrel sold; $1,416 raised
  • Family Business Beer Company: 15 barrels brewed; 1 barrel sold; $1,500 raised
  • Last Stand Brewing Company: 5 barrels brewed; $895 raised
  • Uncle Billy’s Brewery and Smokehouse: 10 barrels brewed; $3,700 raised
  • Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company (ABGB): 15 barrels brewed; 5 barrels sold; $5,500 raised
  • Suds Monkey Brewing Company: 3 barrels brewed; will be released this weekend
  • Two Wheel Brewing Co.: 1 barrel brewed; will be released this weekend
  • Hops and Grain Brewing
  • Rentsch Brewery
  • Pinthouse Pizza
  • Texas Beer Company
  • Independence Brewing Co.
  • Real Ale Brewing Company
  • Acopon Brewing Co.

(Note: A barrel is equivalent to roughly two full-size kegs, or 248 pints. The amount of money each brewery has raised depends on a number of factors, including pricing and how the beer is sold, whether in individual pints or by the growler. The brewers without totals listed either could not be reached or did not respond to KXAN inquiries by the time of publication. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.)

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