St. Louis breweries join fundraising effort in support of California wildfire victims

ST. LOUIS – A California beer company has launched an international campaign to support victims of the recent wildfires and several St. Louis-area breweries have stepped up to help.

The recent wildfires were the most destructive in California history, killing at least 86 people and displacing more than 14,000 families, including 50 employees of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company who lived in the destroyed town of Paradise.

"For us, as a brewery in Chico, Paradise was our neighbor town and many of our employees lived in the foothills, and so many of them lost their homes," said Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevada created a new "Resilience Butte County IPA" and Grossman reached out to the brewing community to help. Nearly 1,500 breweries around the country—and even one in the United Kingdom—answered the call.

"Sierra Nevada asked and we just had to answer," said Kyle Kohlmorgen, owner of Wellspent Brewing Company. "It's something that you just do."

The goal is to sell four million pints and raise $15 million. Brewers were asked to serve one batch of beer and donate one hundred percent of proceeds to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund.

"If it happened here, they would do it for us," said Steve Crider, owner of 2nd Shift Brewing. "The brewery industry is phenomenal. It's just human nature. Why wouldn't you help them? You have to. We can."

After an electrical fire gutted the kitchen of Ferguson Brewing Company in 2015, the business was able to bounce back faster than expected with the help of the community and other breweries.

"The beer industry has always kind of been one that always really tries to lend a helping hand to other people, so it was really a no-brainer when we saw it," said Rob Abell, head brewer at Ferguson Brewing Company. "We kind of felt like it was our responsibility to help out (in California)."

Suppliers donated the ingredients and Sierra Nevada provided the recipe, but each brewer is allowed to put their own spin on it.

Kohlmorgen said he "loves the recipe" so he stuck to it. He is looking forward to seeing the variations other local breweries come up with.

Crider said he stuck "90 percent to the recipe." He mixed up the original recipe with some different hops.

"People are loving it," he said.

Abell said he added a little more wheat to the original recipe to give it a fuller body.

"We're hoping that people like ours, and we're hoping that people go try everyone else's too," said Abell.

Resilience Butte County IPA is available now at Second Shift Brewing. Wellspent Brewing Company will begin serving the charity beer Dec. 28. The beer will be available at Ferguson Brewing Company Jan. 4.

Beer available while supplies last.

For more information and a full list of participating breweries visit SierraNevada.com.

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