Right photo by Amy Kaeser

PNW Breweries Give Back to the Land

by | Jun 16, 2017

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as that first sip of a cold beer after a hike in our epic Pacific Northwest landscape. It’s no surprise that many breweries have found unique ways to combine the two while helping protect the lands they love.

Founder of Two Beers Brewing Co. in Seattle, Joel VandenBrink, hiked the Wonderland Trail and was so inspired by the hike he created a beer to honor it: Wonderland Trail India pale ale. Its 2016 release raised $5,000 for the Washington National Parks Fund, which supports national parks like Mount Rainier National Park, home of the 93-mile trail. The brewery also held a gear garage sale with donations from local outdoor clothing and gear companies, raising another $5,000 for the fund, with plans to do it again in April.

Two Beers and its sister company, Seattle Cider Co., partner with outdoor-focused groups such as The Mountaineers, Washington Trails Association and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, who work to conserve land, build trails and educate the public. The two producers donated more than $25,000 in 2016 through cash and product donations, hosting fundraisers and volunteering on trail maintenance projects, says Caitlin Braam, president of both companies.

Double Mountain Brewery hosted Columbia Land Trust’s (CLT) third annual Habitap in March, with a portion of beer sales supporting their conservation and restoration efforts in Oregon and Washington. CLT’s Beers and Backyards Tour kicked off at Hopworks Urban Brewery, showcasing their Backyard Habitat Certification program, a partnership with the Audubon Society of Portland.

Beers Made by Walking (BMBW) takes a unique approach to fundraising by pairing nonprofits with local brewers. The brewers participate in a series of walks led by experts in native plant life. They then create a beer or cider inspired by the walks that incorporates local edibles, and hold release parties to raise funds and awareness of their cause.

Eric Steen, now of Hopworks, conceived of the project in Colorado Springs in 2011. It has since raised over $25,000 for environmental nonprofits with more than 100 participating breweries. “Beer can inform a sense of place in the community both in terms of gathering people together but also with the actual ingredients, and tell a greater story of the landscape,” Steen says.

Last year BMBW partnered Oregon local breweries with Forest Park Conservancy in Portland, the McKenzie River Trust in Eugene and the Green Belt Land Trust in Corvallis, among others in San Francisco and Denver. The 2017 lineup is still in the works, but will likely include a partnership with Washington Wild in Seattle, and several from last year, Steen says. BMBW has inspired some organizations, such as Oregon Natural Desert Association in Bend, to continue their creative partnerships with breweries.

Thousands of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers pass through the little town of Cascade Locks, Oregon, each year. They have already traveled 2,144 miles of the Mexico-to-Canada trail when they arrive, and have 424 miles still to go. Many stop at Thunder Island Brewing Co. to refuel, where they also receive a free pint of beer with a special message written on a coaster from a patron. The brewery began its pay-it-forward Trail Magic Pints program at the end of the hiking season in 2014, providing an easy way for patrons to buy a hiker a pint. They’ve since served up roughly 1,200 pints to thru-hikers, including 580 in the 2016 season.

This story originally ran in the spring 2017 print issue of Sip Northwest. For the full story and more like it, click here to subscribe.

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