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More than 1,000 breweries answer Sierra Nevada's call for Camp Fire relief beer

Posted: Updated: Nov 29, 2018 8:17 AM
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware, is one of about 1,000 breweries joining Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in making Resilience Butte County IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware, is one of about 1,000 breweries joining Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in making Resilience Butte County IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware, is one of about 1,000 breweries joining Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in making Resilience Butte County IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware, is one of about 1,000 breweries joining Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in making Resilience Butte County IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, in making Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, the proceeds of which will support Camp Fire relief efforts.

The deadliest fire in California history has set into motion the largest charitable collaboration ever among the nation's breweries, as more than 1,000 have signed on to brew a beer to raise funds for those affected by the Camp Fire in Northern California.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which is located in Chico, California, part of Butte County but west of the areas hardest hit by the fire, fed first responders and displaced residents during the fire and handed out clothing, too.

But Ken Grossman, who founded the brewery in 1980, wanted to do more. He decided to brew a special beer, Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, and donate all the proceeds to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, which it seeded with a $100,000 donation.

Then, Grossman asked other breweries across the U.S. to join in. "We are working with malt, hop and yeast suppliers to provide raw ingredient donations to all participating breweries and are asking those breweries to donate 100 percent of their sales to the fund, as well," he said in the letter, a copy of which is posted online.

"We know that the rebuilding process will take time, but we're in this for the long haul," Grossman said. "Our hope is to get Resilience IPA in taprooms all over the country to create a solid start for our community's future."

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Collaboration is common among independent brewers, and so is the brewing of charity beers. But the response to Sierra Nevada's Camp Fire initiative has been historic. "I'm quite sure that it's both the largest-ever collaboration and the biggest industry charity ever," said Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery.

So far, more than 1,000 breweries have pledged to make their own batches of Resilience Butte County Proud IPA. "This is a great idea spearheaded by a great indie craft brewing pioneer supporting a great cause," said Sam Calagione, co-founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware, which brewed its batch of Resilience IPA and plans to serve it in late December.

"Our thoughts are with all of the brave folks who have helped navigate this challenging moment in Northern California and all of the families who have lost love ones," Calagione said. "The craft brewing community has always been altruistic and mutually supportive, and giving back to our communities is one of the things we collectively do best."

Another of the participating breweries, Fort Collins, Colorado-headquartered New Belgium Brewing, recalls the hardship caused by the nearby 2012 High Park fire. The brewery's paperboard manufacturer, Graphic Packaging International, is located in Oroville, California, in Butte County.

"Many of their co-workers have tragically lost their homes, yet they're still coming to work every day. That is the definition of resilience, and we're happy to support recovery efforts in any way that we can," New Belgium Brewing CEO Steve Fechheimer said. New Belgium brewed its batch Tuesday and plans to make it available at its Fort Collins and Asheville tasting rooms in about two weeks.

"At New Belgium, we believe that business can be a force for good, and we think that ethos is shared throughout the craft beer community,' Fechheimer said.

Sierra Nevada brewed its batch of more than 74,000 gallons on Tuesday and plans to release it Jan. 5, 2019. Sierra will can some of that beer and also make it available on draft. Other participating breweries will only sell Resilience IPA on draft, with most releases planned in late December and early January. Overall, the project should yield about 8.6 million pints of beer, the brewery estimates.

Breweries joining include small, midsize and regional breweries nationwide as well as Anheuser-Busch-owned Goose Island Beer Co. and Miller Coors-owned Blue Moon Brewing Co. For a list of the breweries participating, go to Sierra Nevada's website.

"Even as the beer industry has grown so much since the early days and become increasingly competitive, it is so wonderful to see hundreds of breweries nationwide rallying behind one of the movement's absolute most important pioneers," said Greg Engert, beer director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group in Alexandria, Virginia, which brewed a batch of the IPA at its Bluejacket brewery in Washington, D.C.

Sierra Nevada's Grossman had hopes of sharing the beer's recipe with perhaps 500 breweries that would also make the beer and donate the proceeds. "That was kind of his pie-in-the-sky goal; if we really work hard maybe we can hit 500 breweries, and we have doubled that number," brewery spokesperson Robin Gregory said. "I know he wanted to raise at least seven figures, and it looks like, if our math is correct, it's going to be a bit higher than that."

The Camp Fire took the lives of at least 85, with another 249 listed as missing, and destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings. About 15 percent of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. employees lost their homes in the fire, as did "countless friends and family members as well," she said.

Even before the fire was officially extinguished, the brewery had set up the relief fund. "Once the fire is out, we will distribute all donated money to partner organizations that are dedicated to rebuilding and supporting the communities that have been affected," Grossman said in a note on the brewery's website, also signed by daughter Sierra and son Brian.

The beer is a "really classic" West Coast-style India pale ale made with Centennial and Cascade hops, Gregory said. "If it's going to be raising money to rebuild our community, we felt like it should be a taste of home. We wanted to go with that classic danky west coast IPA ... (that is) fresh, piney, citrusy, hop-heavy, and nice and bright."


Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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