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From Beer to H2O | Breweries Lending a Can After Hurricane Michael

From Beer to H2O | Breweries Lending a Can After Hurricane Michael
Katie Coakley

On Wednesday, October 10, Hurricane Michael slammed into the coast of Florida into a tiny town called Mexico Beach. On Monday, Oct. 8, the storm had been a Category 1 as it made its way to the Panhandle; by the time it hit, it was a Category 4. Though news reports, complete with eye-witness testimony and photos and videos released after the fact, try to illustrate the devastation that this storm wreaked, it’s hard to fathom. Even when you hear it from friends and family, it’s hard to take in.

My family was lucky. The trailer that my grandparents bought in 1985 is still standing, with only a few windows blown out. The house my parents’ built and have been living in full-time since 2008—my home for half the year—sports shattered windows like empty eye sockets, a hole in the roof and an exterior that looks as if it’s been skinned due to the siding being torn off, but it’s standing as well. We were lucky. But it’s going to take time to rebuild. In the meantime, many areas are still without power and running water.

In these times of disaster, when most of the luxuries that we take for granted are gone (electricity, internet, flushing toilets and potable water), all help is appreciated. But the necessities: a place to sleep, food and water to drink, are even more important. It’s times like these that breweries and beer companies step up.

Canning water, not beer

Needless to say, it was difficult sitting in Colorado, watching the news, seeing one of my favorite places in the world get decimated by Michael’s winds and the subsequent storm surge. But after the winds started to die down, it was nice to know that there were folks in my favorite profession (beer) doing what they could.

Sure, some people would prefer to receive beer in times of trouble, but water is a greater necessity. After Hurricane Florence ravaged North Carolina in mid-September, some Anheuser Busch breweries temporarily turned their canning operations from beer to water, as a way to help communities that were hit. The Fort Collins Brewery is one of two Anheuser Busch locations that may pause production for a few days, turning from canning beer to canning water to help the Red Cross*. The brewing behemoth can produce thousands and thousands of cases of water when disasters hit, from tornadoes to wildfires and yes—hurricanes.

*No jokes about whether or not switching from beer to water is a big deal at Anheuser Busch are necessary here. They’re doing a good deed—we’ll hold off on commentary for now.

In Lyons, Colorado, Oskar Blues Brewery switched from canning beer to canning water for six hours on Friday, Oct. 12—they canned 66,000 cans of clean water to be donated to relief efforts in Florida. The cans are making their way to Florida with the help of Can’d Aid, a Longmont-based nonprofit that will deliver the cans to local organizations for distribution.

Photo via Oskar Blues

“Usually potable water is one of the first things to go in a natural disaster,” said Sarah Leavitt, the director of operations and programs at Can’d Aid in an interview with the Longmont Times-Call. “Because cans are lightweight and durable, it’s something we can ship and get into people’s homes pretty quickly.”

With the help of Oskar Blues and the Ball Corp (which donates the cans), Can’d Aid has donated more than 1.5 million cans of water to 20 disaster areas in 10 states in the past three years.

Neighbors helping neighbors

It’s wonderful to see large-scale breweries helping out when disasters strike, but it’s something truly special when neighbors help neighbors. In Santa Rosa Beach, about a 30-minute drive from Panama City Beach, Idyll Hounds Brewing Company also felt the impact of Hurricane Michael. Team members lost power, had trees come down on their properties; the storm hit close to home, both literally and figuratively speaking.

But when the power was restored to the brewery, the folks at Idyll Hounds decided to do something to help. The craft brewery started filling their 16-ounce cans, which are normally filled with their small batch releases, with water.

So far, 240 cases of 16oz cans have been packaged and delivered to nearby Panama City.

“We’re one of the only breweries that cans (in the area),” said Warren Bondi, marketing and sales manager at Idyll Hounds Brewing Company. “If you can do it, you have the means, you have to figure out a way to help.”

Bondi said that everything just worked out: The brewery had celebrated four years in business the prior weekend, so they had already filled tanks with water for the party. When founder and head brewer Frasier Hansen saw the storm coming, he topped off the tanks, just in case. At first, Bondi said, the brewery was distributing the water with a hose; when the power came back on they started canning. Those cans are now being distributed to locations in Panama City and Panama City Beach. The brewery is also taking donations of supplies and nonperishable foods to send east when they send the water.

“We’re probably going to can more on Monday (Oct. 15),” Bondi said. “We’re trying to get more cans in as we speak.”

Idyll Hounds is using blank cans at the moment to make sure there’s no confusion as to the contents.

However, Bondi also recognizes that, after a full day of cleaning and repairing and trying to get back to normal, you might also want a beer.

“Our taproom is open and we’re hoping to have food trucks back here, too,” Bondi said. “So come in and we’ll cheer you up.”

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