Beer wasn't the only thing on the mind of Goose Island's founder when opening the Chicago-based craft brewery in 1988. On their first day, the brewers also raised funds for Erie Neighborhood House, a century-old organization that assists local immigrant and low-income families. It's a relationship that still holds strong today – which comes as no surprise to anyone at the now-iconic brewery.
“Beer is all about community and we wouldn't be here without the people of Chicago,” says Todd Ahsmann, President of Goose Island Beer Company. “Supporting this city is part of who we are and always has been, especially during tough years like the one we just had.”
It's a sentiment echoed by many craft brewers who stepped in to help keep their communities afloat through pandemic shutdowns and continue to do so now through new initiatives. For the breweries that make up Brewers Collective, the craft business unit of Anheuser-Busch, the past year has only reaffirmed the lengths craft breweries always go to for the cities where their brand was born and raised.
Fulfilling neighbors' unmet needs
The heart of Four Peaks Brewing Co. is undoubtedly its hometown of Tempe, Arizona. In the 25 years the brewery's been in operation, its community-minded work has become as well-known as the nearby mountain range for which it's named. The biggest and most impactful of these programs is Four Peaks For Teachers, which since 2011 has provided educators in Arizona with free kits full of school supplies. The program has grown over time; Four Peaks plans to hand out 10,000 school supply kits this year.
The brewery's skill in distributing goods to people in need proved useful when area residents came up short on household essentials during pandemic shutdowns. The team in Tempe quickly launched an online ‘bodega' that enabled visitors to order groceries, toiletries and baked goods along with beer and food for takeout from the brewpub.
“There was no question Four Peaks would help,” says Chris Meyer, Four Peaks' General Manager. “We had access to these items through our suppliers, and we could safely deliver what our customers needed, while also limiting social contact and relieving crowding at our grocery stores.”
Four Peaks is also taking on the environmental issue of personal protective equipment (PPE) waste in their community. The brand recently joined 17 other Anheuser-Busch craft breweries in using TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes for recycling of employees' single-use masks and gloves. Four Peaks, along with Seattle's Elysian Brewing, is also among the first to launch a public-facing “Pints for PPE” program that rewards customers with a gift card to the pub when they bring in their eligible PPE for recycling.
In Los Angeles, Golden Road Brewery similarly rallied to help combat COVID-19 and support their friends and neighbors. More than 4,000 meals were donated to Project Access and Dream Center, and 35,000 bandanas and face coverings were distributed to slow the spread of the virus. They also hosted eight blood drives to benefit up to 1,200 people in need and created a program to recognize local everyday heroes – delivery drivers, small business owners, healthcare workers and others – with a $500 reward.
“We are proud and thankful for our brewers and pub staff who have worked tirelessly and safely to get our city through the pandemic,” says Dan Hamill, General Manager at Golden Road. “This year we're celebrating our tenth anniversary and we're ready to raise a pint with our fellow Angelenos again.”
Ready for a rocking recovery
Elysian has made Seattle's renowned art and music scene as much a part of its culture as its award-winning beers over the last 25 years. When pandemic shutdowns brought live music to a halt, Elysian brewers released a Keep Music Live IPA to support small and independent live music venues.
As the city begins to slowly reopen, the team is hopeful to resume its biggest community event, the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival which has helped raise, in part, more than $600,000 for a local nonprofit organization.
“We can't wait to welcome Seattle back to share a beer in person and enjoy live events again,” says Kyle Fitzsimmons, General Manager of Elysian Brewing Company.
The feeling is mutual back at Goose Island, where brewers crafted limited edition brews with proceeds going to pandemic response funds for artists and independent music venues, and organized a streaming concert series on Instagram to support local musicians. But it's the eventual return of the annual ‘312 Block Party' that brings the most hope to Goose Islanders.
“It's more than just a block party, it's a cross section of Chicagoans from all neighborhoods coming together to give back to our community, listen to live music, and drink some good beer,” says Goose Island Brewing Company President Todd Ahsmann. “It's the ultimate love letter to the people of Chicago and an embodiment of everything we love about our city.”