Pet Projects: A New Breed of Beer Activism

Pet Projects: A New Breed of Beer Activism

You don’t have to be an animal lover to enjoy beer or vice versa. Yet there are clear crossovers between folks who love their beer and those who love animals — who doesn’t enjoy sipping a cold pint with their pup next to them, after all? — and breweries and beer bars around the country are picking up on that. Meet the latest breed of animal advocates and get the scoop (sans the litter box, of course) behind this growing trend.

Creating a sanctuary of their own

Charlotte the chicken poses for the cameras. credit: April Johnson

If you don’t get from Sanctuary Brewing Company’s name that they’re on a mission for animals, you will the minute you step in. Pictures of the brewery’s sanctuary animals — from Ollie the pig to Charlotte the chicken — hang everywhere, and the logo and tap handles feature a pig, dog and chicken. Just recently, the brewery also earned non-profit status for its own animal sanctuary, a dream of the two owners, one of whom is a brewer who laid down his brewing roots at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina.

“We wanted to open a brewery to make really good beer, but also make enough money to open an animal sanctuary,” says Lisa McDonald, co-owner of the Hendersonville, North Carolina-based brewery and avid animal rescue advocate. McDonald, along with her partner, Joe Dinan, figured it would be years before they could reach that dream. Yet in just a little over two years after opening the brewery in August 2015, they opened their sanctuary, which currently has 23 animals.

The fact that they’ve been able to do this so quickly speaks to their solid beer creations. “Joe brews the beer that he wants to drink, which means we don’t get pigeonholed into one thing,” McDonald says. Their flagship — and one that if they ever stopped carrying, “people would come to the brewery with torches and pitchforks,” McDonald jokes — is the Hop Pig IPA, named after one of their most beloved farm animals, Ollie. Now 250 pounds, this pot-bellied pig used to be a regular guest at the brewery when he was a little. (Ollie, by the way, also inspired the name behind a double IPA called Ollie the Destroyer, largely because when Ollie gets his snout into some beer, which he loves, he turns into a lunatic.)

Before the sanctuary, though, Sanctuary Brewing was advocating for animals in other ways. They earned fame for hosting a weekly yoga class with animals, usually featuring cats and bunnies. They also frequently partnered with animal rescue organizations to do things like host events at the brewery, donate a certain portion of the proceeds of sales of specific beers to organizations, and provide free beer to animal-oriented fundraising events.

Why sit at home and get ignored by your cat when you could come here? credit: Karen Asp

While they’ve since stopped doing the yoga, largely because they now serve food at the brewery and animals are no longer allowed inside because of health code reasons (although guests can bring their dogs to the pup-friendly patio) and their farm animals can’t patronize the brewery, they still work with a select handful of animal rescue organizations to support their mission. They also do special community pet events like food drives and free vet checks for pets. And they invite guests to tour their sanctuary for free, although donations are encouraged. “If you love beer and you’re curious about our animals, we want to get you out there,” McDonald says, adding that she’s hoping to sell beer at the sanctuary soon.

But there’s an even bigger way Sanctuary is advocating for animals: It’s a vegan brewery (McDonald and Dinan are vegan), and while this is something they don’t hit patrons over the head with, the mission is reflected in their menu, which serves only vegan fare. “We just want to provide a comfortable space where people can drink really good beer and eat really good food — oh, and by the way, you’re helping animals,” she says, , adding that non-vegan beer drinkers have been pleasantly surprised that this type of fare can be so delicious and dense. The brewery’s compassionate nature extends, by the way, into other ventures, as it hosts a free dinner every Sunday (although it’s donation-based, if you can afford it) and hosts a kindness wall, which has bags filled with essential items like toothpaste, deodorant and sunscreen, available for free for people in need.

In the future, the dream is to open a location with at least 80 acres where they could place the brewery, animal sanctuary, yoga studio and more. Until then, Sanctuary will continue coming up with new ways to be animal advocates. “We’re down with the wackier the idea, the better,” McDonald says. “We want to do things that sound fun and maybe change people’s hearts and minds about farm animals.”

Doing good for animals with every pint

Whether you want to kick back on the patio or enjoy a pint inside, everybody’s welcome — including four-legged friends — at Metazoa Brewing Company in Indianapolis, where you’re doing good the second you pay for a beer. The brewery donates 5 percent of its profits to 10 animal and wildlife organizations, something it’s done religiously since its opening in April 2016.

The brewery cuts checks to each of these organizations every quarter, sometimes sooner, if one of the organizations has a particular need. “We’re so committed to that 5-percent promise that our owner has dug into his pockets at times to make it happen,” says Lauren Frederick, Metazoa’s director of sales and marketing.

The brewery also holds numerous events for animal organizations every month in its taproom. For instance, it recently hosted a Mardi Cause Fast Hounds and Fast Horses event to raise money for retired racing greyhounds and horses. They also recently hosted a music festival titled Pints Against Poachers with four bands to help raise money for the African Wildlife Foundation’s Canines for Conservation program.

And any of its beers made with chocolate — there were three on tap as of press time — use Endangered Species Chocolate, an Indianapolis-based chocolate company that donates 10 percent of its net profits to its nonprofit conservation partners. “Endangered Species has taken us under their wing and agreed to be our exclusive chocolate partner,” Frederick says.

Why such a strong focus for a brewery whose name is the scientific term for the animal kingdom? Credit its owner Dave Worthington, whose two kids loved giving money to animal causes when they were growing up. When Worthington decided to open a brewery, he decided to combine two of the things that were most important to him and his family: beer and animals.

Metazoa hopes to send $100,000 to its various animal and wildlife partner organizations in 2018, a mission that they’ve helped by quadrupling their brewing capacity and increasing their distribution around the state of Indiana. They’re also currently exploring the option of a second location.

While the animal mission was a big driver for attracting customers during their initial start-up, Frederick believes the brewery now has a one-two punch that’s making it so successful. “Our beer is really good — we recently picked up some medals at the Great American Beer Festival, for instance — and people also feel really good when drinking our beer, which sets us apart from other breweries that, although they might have good beer, may not have a mission,” she says. In the future, Frederick hopes Metazoa can host bus trips to some of their partner organizations so customers can see where their money is going.

A spirited foster home for dogs

No doubt you’ve heard of cat cafés. But a taphouse for dogs?

The idea is the brainchild of Scott Porter, who recently opened I Love Fido’s in Tigard, Oregon, which features 40 taps, including 30 for beers that regularly showcase independent breweries like Boneyard Brew Co and Occidental Brewing. Yet Porter didn’t want to have just another beer bar. He wanted to set himself apart, and it was a visit with his son to a coffee shop that featured adoptable cats that sparked the idea.

Porter had read several Yelp reviews in which the patrons were complaining that the cats didn’t want to play with them. “My son commented that if they have dogs, this wouldn’t be a problem,” he says. “It came to me then that if I could get adoptable dogs in a tap room, I’d open a bar,” he says.

Three years later in February 2018, I Love Fido’s officially opened to the public. long with being a beer bar, it also serves as a corporate foster for adoptable dogs. Roughly four to six dogs live full-time (until they find their forever home) in a separate room that you enter from outside the taproom, where patrons are encouraged to visit them (and yes, you can place your beer outside a window, open the window and take a sip while you visit the dogs). There is a small fee — $4 per half hour for individuals 13 years and up and $2 per half hour for anybody 12 or younger, although minors do have to be accompanied by a parent — but the fees go toward all of the expenses Porter and his family have in serving as a foster family for these dogs. Since opening, 34 dogs have been adopted, and Porter hopes that number increases.

The taproom also does special events with rescue organizations and will often put up a featured pint where a certain percentage of proceeds are donated to a rescue.

Although Porter is working hard to earn a reputation as a great beer bar (with a dog-friendly patio), the dogs have been the big draw. “People do care about dogs, and that’s what has set us apart,” he says.

At Hop River Brewing Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, there’s now a new addition to the activity menu: Making enrichment toys and other accessories for a local animal shelter.

Crafting for animals

Holding special events for animals is another way breweries are putting their best paw forward, and at Hop River Brewing Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, there’s now a new addition to the activity menu: Making enrichment toys and other accessories for a local animal shelter. On the third Thursday of every month, animal lovers gather to craft items for the shelter’s animals out of common household items like paper towel rolls, cardboard and paper tissue.

“One of our foundations is community,” says Mary Corinne Lowenstein, Hop River’s director of marketing. “By partnering with other socially active organizations that are locally minded, we’re able to connect with people who are interested in getting involved in the community while enjoying something to eat or having a pint of craft beer made onsite.”

Being at a brewery has helped attract more animal lovers. “It can be scary or intimidating to go to an animal shelter if you’ve never been to one,” says Holly Eggelston with Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control (ACC). When these events have been held at ACC’s facility, turnout has been low, but at the brewery, numbers are up. “Adding the fun, laid-back element of a brewery has been a better way to get people to volunteer their time.”

Adopting an animal-driven business model

Feel like joining the pack? Know that anything you do for animals will be welcomed, not just by animal organizations you partner with, but also your animal-loving beer guests.

First, if you’re looking for partner organizations, Frederick suggests finding one that fits your passions. “Do your research and know the reasons why you picked the organizations you want to support,” she says, adding that the more obscure ones that often don’t get much attention can be super cool.

Also, make sure you’re keeping your promise. Whether you’re donating so much from each pint each month or cutting a portion of your proceeds to an organization, communicate with your customers. “That way, you’ll make everybody feel good about supporting you,” Frederick says.

Another option? Consider hosting vegan events like dinners and other fun occasions. “People get upset when you’re trying to save one animal, and you put another one on the plate,” McDonald says. “Plus, vegan events are big money makers and fun to do.”

Coming together for good is something the beer industry is famous for doing. Yet by adding animal lovers to the mix, that do-good mission has the potential to reach an even wider audience, namely the 84.6 million American households that share their home with a cat or dog or both. While it’s a win-win for everybody involved, the real winner is the animals.

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