Craft beer is all about community, from the camaraderie between brewers and beer nerds as well as the dedicated support staff that make it all possible. Even with a partial reopening of service in some Oregon counties, many bartenders, servers, sales and service support staff won’t be coming back to work anytime soon. The outpouring of support for breweries and taprooms has been inspiring, but we must be cautious not to overlook the support staff that make our most memorable beer experiences possible. Beer is after all a social drink, as well as an economic one that has proven a significant boost to economies. Just as we remember our favorite beers fondly, beer also remembers us and will give back.
These are a few of the efforts in Oregon to support those out of work in the beer industry, and you can apply for help or offer assistance to those who need it.
I Love PDX Beer People is a small grassroots organization founded by local industry reps to support the behind-the-scenes players who work in sales and distribution. The idea was dreamed up by Mary Rose Walker and her industry social group called the PDX Book Club.
“If you appreciate the way the Portland beer scene nurtures small breweries and gives the support to grow, then you appreciate the sales people behind it,” says I Love PDX Beer People co-founder Mary Rose Walker. “While beer sales, etc., jobs are fun, they are often HARD and thankless. Here’s an opportunity for you, a sometimes beer consumer, to say thank you.”
Walker and co-organizers Amity Worden, and Michaela Specht DeRosso are all still employed and active longtime members of the industry, the people that beer buyers see on a nearly daily basis. Rather than sit by and continue to enjoy their own employment statuses, they decided to form I Love PDX Beer People and sell stickers at local bottle shops and on their website. 100% of merchandising sales will go to local beer reps who are out of work and anyone in the Portland/Vancouver area can apply for benefits here.
“I’ve been in this industry for going on 11 years now and I have made some of my best friends through it. Knowing that I get to stay and people who have supported me / made me laugh on bad days / always answered the phone were not so lucky… I couldn’t just sit and watch,” says Walker.
Stormbreaker Brewing was among the first breweries to start a home beer delivery service and their forward thinking has lead to two different fundraising tracks. By beer or by wear, Stormbreaker has a way for you to help save your beer heroes and get something in return.
The “I Helped Save Craft Beer” t-shirt initiative is the wearable form of support that Stormbreaker owner Dan Malech pitched to fellow Oregon Brewers Guild members. With the assistance of Milwaukie, OR-based Brewery Branding (a company that has also been forced to lay off much of their staff) Stormbreaker was able to quickly turnaround a t-shirt from design by Tommy Hood Creative at good quality for a low cost.
“I keep thinking of a day when it will be commonplace once again to be in large groups and when that time comes all I want to do is give a big high five and a thank you to someone wearing this shirt. As the idea grew I thought it would be even better to invite all of the OR breweries to be a part of it. It was short notice, but we got a great response,” said Dan Malech.
Rather than keeping the shirts as a Stormbreaker only product, they recruited 25 other local breweries to go in on an order of more than 1,500 shirts.
All 26 participating breweries will have the unisex Next Level 6210 shirts in either charcoal or heather gray colors. Each brewing company will use the proceeds as they see fit to benefit their staff or otherwise keep them employed.
Helter Shelter is the drinking portion of Stormbreaker’s fundraising efforts, a beer name inspired by The Beatles song and definitely not Charles Manson. Proceeds from the sale of the beer and shirts will go to Stormbreaker’s Furloughed Friends and Family Fund, affectionately known as SFFFF.
Helter Shelter is West Coast IPA with an old meets new theme in it’s hopping. Dependable classics like Cascade, Chinook and Summit hops added to the kettle for bittering and new kids like Azacca, Cashmere and Strata hops for an aromatic dry-hop. Citrus, pine, and tropical aromas & flavors bring some fresh flavor to this classic style.
16oz cans of the 6.5% ABV and 60 IBU Helter Shelter will go on sale on May 22nd. Get your orders in for the beer or shirts right here.
After Double Mountain Brewery and Cidery was forced to shutdown their two pubs and layoff the staff they moved quickly to establish a tax exempt 501c3 to help out workers. Double Mountain owner Matt Swihart credits his first two investors and former college housemates Jim Ziliak and Dan Vetrovsky for springing into action when the shutdown was first announced.
Double Mountain Foundation has already raised $27,000 through a combination of grants, investor donations and personal donations which they accept through their website via paypal. The funds are being distributed to not only Double Mountain Brewery staff but also Hood River hospitality and service workers who are in need. So far the foundation has distributed thousands of dollars in gift cards for out of work staff to use to purchase groceries.
“I’ve already heard rumblings of medicaid funding shortfalls and benefit cuts. No matter what the state or feds say, the unemployment funds may dry up early and then the needs of these service workers will amplify,” says Matt Swihart, who emphasizes it may get worse before it gets better. “We are helping those that got hit the hardest now, and shoring up a fund to be able to help as it likely will get worse.”
Double Mountain Foundation has relied on restaurant, bar and hotel managers in helping them identify those most in need of funds but is adding an application process to the website. Navigating the bureaucracy of non-profits can be difficult in normal times, let alone in times of pandemic. Frustrations with the federal government have been palpable, but Swihart won’t let that become an excuse for inaction.
“We are stepping into the roll of being the back-up necessity fund for our staff. It very much shows how our government systems to protect people from starvation and health crisis is so inadequate,” says Swihart.
Apply for Double Mountain Foundation benefits or donate to the cause here.
Apply for I Love PDX Beer People benefits or donate to that cause here.
Order a Stormbreaker “I Helped Save Craft Beer” shirt here and order some beer while you are at it.
Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding.