It’s no secret that Oregon craft breweries love their communities. Time and again our breweries witness a need, and time and again they step up for the cause. In 2018, 60 Oregon breweries joined Sierra Nevada’s Resilience Beer Campaign, which raised money benefiting those affected by the destructive forest fires in Paradise, California. Every year locally, dozens of breweries support the KLCC Brew Fest, which benefits local public broadcasting. Portland’s Ex Novo Brewing, with the slogan “Better beer for greater good,” is one of the nation’s first legitimate nonprofit breweries. Ex Novo funnels its profits toward several charities, ranging from programs that help protect homeless individuals to helping at-risk youths.
It’s safe to say, Oregon’s craft breweries don’t shy away from a good cause, especially when there are members of their community in need. And this year has been no exception.
On May 25, George Floyd Jr. was killed by officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, catapulting racial inequality, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter campaign into the forefront of public consciousness. And once again, acknowledging the injustices that many members of their community face regularly, craft breweries across the nation stepped up to do their part.
The Black-owned San Antonio brewery Weathered Souls started the Black Is Beautiful beer campaign as a “collaborative effort to raise awareness for the injustices people of color face daily and raise funds for police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.” Weathered Souls asks three things of those breweries participating: “Donate 100% of the beer’s proceeds to local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged, choose their own entity to donate to local organizations that support equality and inclusion, and to commit to the long-term work of equality.”
More than 1,037 breweries, from Japan to New York to Rwanda, have begun selling or brewing their own version of the original stout recipe, offered up by Weathered Souls Brewing. Thirty of those breweries are from Oregon, though surprisingly, only two of those 30 hail from Eugene (Claim 52 and Hop Valley).
Claim 52’s version of the beer, released on July 8, is a 10% ABV Imperial Stout conditioned on fair trade and organic Brazilian and Mexican coffee beans, hand-selected and roasted by local roasters Farmers Union Coffee. According to Bryce Fisher, head brewer at Claim 52, Farmers Union Coffee not only provided the coffee, “they purposefully selected a few great beans and roasted them to a profile that would suit this beer. They also donated the beans and were just as enthusiastic as we were about this project.”
Mercy McDonald, co-owner of Claim 52, released a statement about the beer stating, “This collaboration is one small way for us to demonstrate our commitment to racial equality, provide financial support to the good and necessary work others are doing to bring about positive change, and engage our customers in this movement.”
Proceeds from Claim 52’s version of the brew will go to the Eugene/Springfield NAACP chapter and the Known Your Rights Camp.
On the other side of town, Hop Valley Brewing is ramping up to release its version of the Black Is Beautiful stout. Sitting at a more approachable 7.1% ABV, Hop Valley added some local Oregon Meadowfoam honey into the mash, whose additional fermentable sugars added a “marshmallow-like fluff.” Proceeds will go to Oregon’s chapter of the ACLU.
“Beers supporting a cause and giving back to the community is something that has long been part of Hop Valley’s DNA, and looking forward is something we plan to grow and amplify,” said Hop Valley’s brand manager Megan Mckenna of its charitable contributions.
In these times of change, one can easily become overwhelmed with choices. What can one do to help their fellow people? Write your local governance? Join a local chapter promoting change? Talk with people whose perspective you don’t share? These two local breweries have at least answered one question: What beer you’re going to share and enjoy while doing any of it.
Thomas Meeken owns First National Taphouse in Eugene. Want more stories like this? Follow @CAFE_541 on Instagram and subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.
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