Hurricane Florence may have made landfall as a weakening category one hurricane, but the Carolinas continue to feel devastating impacts more than a week later. The slow-moving nature of the storm coupled with its massive size created a beast that dumped trillions of gallons of water in the Carolinas, causing unprecedented flooding with reaches far inland. The National Weather Service is considering it a 1,000-year event.
Like with hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017, breweries are walking alongside their neighbors and serving as beacons of hope in times of need by providing water, fundraising and community meeting places.
“Before the storm hit, we gave out free water and ice to anybody who needed it for their storm preparation,” says Rick Grant, general manager of Wrightsville Beach Brewery. “We did this until the power went out and we couldn’t make any more ice. We kept giving out water, though.”
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After the eye of the storm passed, the brewery quickly resumed their community assistance, cooking up any salvageable food and giving it away to neighbors. They even went mobile with their efforts, sending volunteers with carloads of free food into devastated neighbors.
This Saturday, the brewery is hosting a Wilmington Strong: Hurricane Florence Relief Concert, with proceeds going to Good Shepherd Center, Humble Roots Farm, and local farmers.
The story is similar with Bill’s Front Porch Pub and Brewery in hard-hit Wilmington, North Carolina. Prior to the storm, the brewery filled up its liquor tank with 300 gallons of cold filtered water to give out to neighbors. The brewery also mobilized their food truck the Sunday after the storm, sending it into owners Donnie Stone and Brookes Musser’s neighborhood with free hot meals for residents who had been without power since Thursday morning.
Sometimes, as Stone reminds, the support was simply about being able to open, even if that meant operating with a skeleton crew of owners and top-level management, since most employees evacuated and were having difficulty returning with mass road closures throughout the region.
“We were one of the first restaurants to open,” says Stone. “We had a chance to feed linemen and first responders with a hot meal and a cold beer.”
Mike Barlas of Wilmington’s Flytrap Brewing agrees. He and his family hunkered down in the brewery during Hurricane Florence. Once it passed, he and his wife worked tirelessly to be ready to open as soon as the power turned on. They re-opened the Tuesday after the storm with just the two of them behind the bar — the rest of their staff was evacuated.
“Once we were able to re-open, we had people coming in that needed air conditioning, to charge a phone, and just talk. It was really powerful. A lot of people lost their houses,” he tells us.
Recovery aid for Wilmington extends far beyond homegrown breweries. Fullsteam Brewing in Durham and Legion Brewing in Charlotte both led fundraisers and drives to support relief efforts. “We support local farmers and purveyors throughout the state in our food and beer offerings. We also want to support our neighbors across the state,” says Brittany Smith, marketing manager of Legion Brewing.
Hurricane Florence Badly Damages New Brewery
In some instances, the aid was about breweries helping breweries. As Hurricane Florence approached, Tidewater Brewing was awaiting their permit to open as Wilmington’s newest brewery. Yet, mother nature had other plans, blowing open the brewery’s doors and tearing off the roof.
“What happened to them really hit home for us because we know what it’s like to put everything on the line.” Lybbi Roth, Bold Missy Brewery
“The brewing equipment is salvageable, but the building infrastructure is a complete loss,” says Ethan Hall, president and chief operating officer.
While the business and the building were both insured, Bold Missy Brewery in Charlotte hosted a fundraiser to help fill the plugs of items not covered like glycol lines.
“What happened to them really hit home for us because we know what it’s like to put everything on the line to try and see your dream come to fruition,” says Lybbi Roth, taproom manager. “There are so many great relief efforts in our community for hurricane victims, and we wanted to specifically do something to show support for another member of the NC beer community who is experiencing such a horrible situation.”
There’s also a Go Fund Me page to help the brewery rebuild.
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Even through his loss, Hall reminds that they weren’t alone in feeling the effects of Florence. “There are other breweries down here that experienced loss. Nobody had a generator to keep their beer cold, and some of them lost inventory. Ironclad lost their roof and has water damage, too. We just happened to be the one with the most catastrophic damage.”
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