It's more than beer: Brewers give back

Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 11:24:34-05

Cincinnati-area craft brewers set themselves apart by more than the taste of their hop-infused creations. Through a mix of unique events and a drive to support local nonprofits, they are both creating a sense of community and supporting communities.

“Drinking a beer can be a uniting factor,” Listermann Brewing Company Head Brewer Patrick Gilroy said.

On a recent Thursday night, Gilroy watched happily as a steady stream of customers lined up to taste a freshly tapped keg of a new brew, Roots Ginger Beer.

Listermann and Blank Slate Brewing Company created the beer together and proceeds from sales of the beer will support Cincinnati-area arts agency ArtsWave.

Gilroy said it’s just another way the company can engage with the community.

“It’s a collaboration of passions,” Gilroy said. “I can’t write them a check, but I can do this.”

Many of the area’s more than 20 breweries have worked to give back to causes that they value.

“The arts have a rich heritage in Cincinnati and beer has a rich heritage in Cincinnati,” said Spencer Mapes, manager of Campaign Operation for ArtsWave. “It makes perfect sense to bring those two communities together.”

But connecting with the community is more than just giving back. Breweries are using their spaces for unique events that bring people together.

Wander into Rhinegeist on any given Monday or Tuesday night and the clinking of pint glasses will be punctuated by the thwap of some serious games of whiffle ball. And on a recent Saturday, a shining batch of custom motorcycles drew admiring glances.

“How can we invite our community into our space in ways you might not have originally thought of?” Rhinegeist Community Engagement Manager Katie Hoffman said of the thinking that goes into whiffle ball, motorcycles and other events such as the monthly Art on Vine, a display and sale of arts and handmade crafts.


Yes, it’s good for business to draw in diverse crowds or find ways to contribute to nonprofits, Hoffman said. But it goes beyond that and comes from a different place.

“It’s part of the culture of the employees. It stems from Bob (Bonder) and Bryant (Goulding), our co-founders. Their passion for (the Over-The-Rhine) community has just trickled down to the rest of the staff,” Hoffman said. “We work really hard every day, but we need to step back and take a look at where we work and play and help make it a better place.”

At Braxton Brewing Company, community was just as big a part of the owners’ decision of where to build the business as finding the right building.

“We evaluated a lot of different locations,” said Jonathan Gandolf, Braxton’s head of marketing. “But ultimately we decided we wanted to be in Northern Kentucky not only from a business perspective, but because there’s a lot of cool things happening in Northern Kentucky, and Covington specifically. We wanted to be a catalyst for the renaissance that’s happening in Covington.”

It’s the kind of renaissance that includes books and beer.

On certain Thursday nights at the Braxton taproom, you might stumble onto brew-fueled discussions of literature and culture during their monthly Books on Tap event, run in collaboration with Kenton County Libraries. (March’s book? The wholly appropriate “The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking.”)

It’s also the kind of renaissance that includes goats.

“One of the most unique events we held last year was for the Goebel Goats,” Gandolf said in reference to the goats that wander the hillsides in Covington’s Goebel Park. Braxton sponsors one of the goats and wanted to raise awareness about the group.

“We brought goats into the brewery,” Gandolf said. “We knew it was either going to be an unmitigated disaster or it was going to go really well. It went extremely well.”

Both Braxton and Rhinegeist have big plans for nonprofits as well.

Rhinegeist will soon launch a weekly Charitable Suds night in which proceeds will go to local nonprofits.

“It’s really important for us to give back to the community that has embraced us from the beginning,” Hoffman said.

Braxton donates 5 percent of all sales of its Trophy Pale Ale to area nonprofits and its distributor matches the donations.

“We call that our Kentucky give-back beer,” Gandolf said.