03 Jan The House That Indiana Craft Beer Is Building
It should surprise no one that I’m about to embark on another series of articles that highlight the relationship between Indiana craft beer and the community at large. There are few industries that are more involved in their neighborhoods and beyond than craft beer. Bigger industries might throw more money at causes, yet the personal, individual relationship and investment just isn’t there as it is with craft beer.
Craft beer breweries host neighborhood meetings, raise money for causes big and small (to the tune of $73.4 million nationally in 2016), and most importantly, care about the causes they support by putting their profits and time into their charitable works. In 2018, one of these amazing causes is The House That Beer Built, an effort of Habitat for Humanity of Boone County (HFHBC).
In conjunction with Boone County craft breweries and taprooms, and those in the surrounding counties, HFHBC is building a home in Lebanon, Whitestown, or perhaps Thorntown in partnership with a qualifying family. The project is massive, from identifying a candidate and taking them through the rigorous process, finding an appropriate site, raising money for the land and the build, actually building the house with volunteer labor, and then holding the dedication and key presentation.
While HFH has had many successes, they aren’t accomplished without a stunning amount of work. For The House That Beer Built, the price tag is $90,000, all to be raised through fundraisers. Ninety thousand dollars! Everyone knows that craft breweries are good at getting involved, but that’s a lot of money. To be successful, HFH needs partners that are willing to donate money, partners that can donate in kind articles (like beer) for other fundraisers, businesses that can help with dissemination of the word, and places that are willing to host such events. Craft beer is in good position to help with all four issues.
To these ends, HFHBC has several people that help them meet their lofty goals. Liz Qua is the executive director of HFHBC and its only full time employee. As such, she has knowledge of all the moving parts of the projects, of which there are many. Sue Burks was the volunteer coordinator for the builds when I first spoke to the group. She is a proud mama when it comes to the HFH houses; they are solid.
Even though build volunteers need not have special skills since there are professionals to train them and monitor, the quality of the work is second to none. Sue related the story of a storm in Lebanon 3-4 years ago that contained straight-line winds and a tornado. However, only the HFH in the affected neighborhood “stood strong” and suffered only minimal decorative damage. Sue has moved on and all you volunteers will now be working with Amy Hartwig, the new volunteer coordinator and part-time employee of HFHBC.
I also met Dr. Bradley Allen of the Indiana University School of Medicine. His day job as Senior Associate Dean for Medical Student Education keeps him busy, yet he still volunteers with HFHBC as the chairperson of the House That Beer Built team. In addition to the named individuals, I also ran into several supporters and volunteers of the House That Beer Built Project at the recent soft opening of the Moontown Brewing event space (The 1915 Room). The project definitely has a forward momentum and is getting people excited.
The House That Beer Built is a program that was first initiated a couple of years ago. Liz and Sue attended a global conference geared to helping non-profit organizations fins new partners, funding sources, and marketing opportunities. At this conference, they found out about the first House That Beer Built in Ft. Collins, CO. The success of this first build led to a mimicking of the effort in Raleigh-Durham, NC.
These are both strong craft beer regions and states, so it is not surprising that the idea was met with overwhelming support, both financial and in labor. However, I would contend that Indiana is also a very strong craft beer state, and there is a particularly powerful bond between the Indianapolis craft beer community and the Central Indiana region. I would have been stunned if the support here was found to be wanting…. and I was not disappointed.
The House That Beer Built is a perfect fit for Central Indiana, and the breweries have been very enthusiastic about joining the effort in any way they can. Noble Order, Books and Brews, The Revel Room of People’s Brewing, Deviate Brewing, Wabash Brewing, Flat 12 Bierwerks, Hopcat, Centerpoint Brewing, Sun King Brewery, Black Acre Brewing, Bier Brewery, and Metazoa Brewing have all joined the cause. Even Moontown, Traders, and Happy Brewing are part of the effort, and they haven’t even opened yet.
One of the first events held by HFHBC for the House That Beer Built was in November, 2017 and they have several more on the schedule (including January 9th at Centerpoint Brewing). I sat in on a meeting between HFHBC and Regan Holtsclaw at Metazoa Brewing in early December, and learned more about the project. Metazoa is a brewery that is very interested in being part of the community, so Regan was interested in doing something with the project.
Together, HFH and Metazoa set up a “give back” night on December 15, where in 10% of all pints and growlers sales from 5 to 10 pm would go to The House That Beer Built. At the same time, Metazoa allowed HFHBC to set up a table, pass out information, sell merchandise, and otherwise maximize this time as a fundraiser for the project.
Not only was this a great opportunity to make some money, but HFH also reached many people they might not otherwise have contacted. Liz told me that craft beer is especially fertile soil for a plan like this. The patrons of craft beer tend to be young, but not so young as to not have time nor money. Craft beer drinkers are generally very active in their community, and they are active on social media so that they can spread the word. Combine these patrons with community-oriented breweries and you have a winning combination.
HFHBC will be holding many events like the one at Metazoa. Keep an eye on the Indiana On Tap event calendar and the Habitat for Humanity of Boone County Facebook page for announcements. Wouldn’t it be great if the financial portion of this project could be taken care of way before the build time arrives.
As the fund raising and marketing efforts are in full swing, other activities are ramping up as well. The search for a candidate family in Boone County is ongoing. There are many individuals and families that sign up to be HFH recipients, but it isn’t that simple. It is a demanding series of steps, with classes, a budget, and the candidate being willing to put in 200 hours of sweat equity on their own house.
Even more, HFH needs to match a candidate with a time frame, a location, and a proper house design. There are plenty of qualified candidates, but finding one to match in all categories and to accept the terms of the loan is a full time job. Luckily, they have never had a project fail because there was a person ready and qualified to participate. Everyone grows during the process – the HFH staff, the candidate and family, the volunteers, the sponsors. It is truly a community effort.
It is important to realize that the families are not given the house. HFH is a hand up, not a hand out. As applicants, they are paired with a budget coach who guides them through a program to rid them of debt (except for education, automobile, or medical debt). There is a loan, and they have a scheduled interest-free mortgage to repay that loan. The effort of HFH and the sponsors, partners, and volunteers is to reduce the size of the mortgage so that a person, well prepared, will manage the payments and be successful.
The House That Beer Built will be HFHBC’s second build of the year for 2018, starting in May/June and finishing in August. The build itself is about ten weeks long, so if you want to be involved, there will be ample opportunity. This is a great chance for Central Indiana to show what craft beer can do – as if that wasn’t already apparent.
Liz and the other HFHBC folks are already impressed with Indiana craft beer. They were very happy to find that the brewery community is collaborative, rather than cut throat competitive. They have had breweries suggest other breweries, allow marketing with other brewery names in their taprooms and on their merchandise, and are willing to work with the other breweries on events. This is not their usual experience and has endeared craft beer to them. I have to say that I wasn’t surprised; this sounds exactly like the Indiana craft beer community that I have come to know.