Indiana Craft Beer Plays Part in Record Dollars Raised for Charitable Contributions

Indiana Craft Beer Plays Part in Record Dollars Raised for Charitable Contributions

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

It probably isn’t a surprise to readers that the craft beer industry works on pretty thin profit margins. The overhead for building and maintaining a brewery is costly, as is getting your beer to the public. Just making beer for service in a taproom is no small feat, with ingredient costs, electrical, loss of product issues, tastes, flights, etc., and packing for distribution also comes with costs that eat away at profit.

There are breweries that make a ton of money, but those are few and far between. For most brewers and breweries, this is a love as well as a vocation; they know they aren’t going to get rich from brewing. It’s enough to hope to be comfortable. This makes it all the more amazing to hear how much money craft beer raises for charities.

image credit: Brewers Association

Julia Herz, the Director of Craft Beer Programs at the Brewers Association, recently wrote an article announcing craft beer charitable efforts for 2016. In total, 73.4 million dollars were raised for countless organizations through the efforts of breweries large and small. This was an increase over 2014, the last year in which figures for charitable donations were tracked. In the Brewery Operations Benchmarking Survey (BOBS), a multitude of different mechanisms for generating charity funds were described, spanning the entire year, not just the holiday season (the traditional charity period).

The BA article lists various dollar amounts and events showing all the ways in which craft breweries help worthy causes with donations. These include the clean water canning initiative (Can’d Aid Foundation) of Ball Corp. and Oskar Blues, Iron Hill Brewery’s (Delaware) donations of more than $500,000 to projects fighting childhood cancer, supporting food banks, and other charities, and Rahr & Sons (Fort Worth, TX) raising more than $10,00 for well drilling in developing nations.

These are amazing numbers; however, I would go further and include all the ways that breweries do good for the community and the culture of their community that can’t be fixed to a dollar amount. Hosting neighborhood association meetings, offering local artists walls on which to display and sell their work, supporting get-togethers of groups like Theology on Tap or Science On Tap; these are all hidden forms of charitable work. True, many of these activities also benefit the brewery by bringing in patrons and building their community ties, but the outgo is probably much more than the intake.

image credit: SBBW

In truth, donations of time money, space, publicity probably add up to more money than the BAs recorded dollar amount. However, that doesn’t mean that 73.4 million is a trifling sum, and Indiana craft brewers account for more than their fair share of this figure. I visit and talk to brewers and owners all the time, and I cannot think of a single brewery that doesn’t have some type of charitable program in place.

For example, South Bend Beer Werks has its Beer4Good system, wherein each patron is given a bottle cap with which to vote for one of three charities. At the end of the month, the bottle caps are counted and funds are dispersed to the three charities based on the vote counts. Everyone gets to have a hand in how SBBW donates to the community. Wabash Brewing is particularly known for their work with charities, as was demonstrated by their Octoberfest event recently at which patrons teamed up for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or the 24 Foundation for cancer research in contests to increase the charitable donations.

Sun King Brewery’s taprooms don’t accept tips to the beertenders, but they do have jars in which the money for a tip can go to charities. Cannon Ball Brewing held a fundraiser to donate to a historical marker for Erwin “Cannonball” Baker’s home in the Garfield Park area. Bent Rail and Bier Brewery have both been involved in charitable events for hurricane victims in 2017. Just after opening, Elm St. Brewing in Muncie held an event to raise funds for the Muncie Civic theatre’s Capital Campaign.

photo credit: Wabash Brewing

There are countless examples of these kinds of charitable giving from breweries in Indiana, but that only skims the surface. No festival I have covered this year (and there have been many) has failed to have one or more charitable partners to which a portion of the proceeds were channeled. The recent Brewers of Indiana Guild Broad Ripple Beer Fest raised $4,000 by itself for Asante Children’s Theatre. The Mishawaka Mayfest had multiple charitable partners, and the Red, White, and Brewfest held on in October on the American Legion Mall in Indianapolis raised not only money but also awareness for veteran’s organizations and issues.

I used to ask brewers and organizers if they had a charity partner for an event or festival – now I just ask who their charity partner is. There hasn’t been an instance where someone has had to tell me they didn’t have an organization to whom they were donating a portion of the proceeds.

I have only mentioned a few of the breweries and festivals that I know had charitable partners this year, but I could have gone on to name every brewery in the state. I congratulate the Indiana craft beer community, and craft beer in general, for their giving efforts and for their attitude of community, not just profits.


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