It’s no secret that life can be hard for everyone. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that anxiety and depression jumped another 25% from 2020 to the end of 2021 during the pandemic.
Along with impacting mental health, Covid-19 rocked the foundations of how many view work. This has meant closed doors, employee exits and resetting boundaries for the brewing and hospitality industries.
Yet, even as more people experience mental health strains, many continue to believe they should manage on their own. These breweries and brewers guilds want to change that. Their sustainable approaches to mental health are part of the growing movement to create meaningful change.
Weldwerks’ Brewing Better Communities program donates proceeds from multiple brews to local causes like breast cancer recovery, sexual abuse victim advocacy, housing for refugees and scholarships for students of color at the University of Northern Colorado. Additionally, the brewery chooses a targeted community need every year, such as affordable housing, and hosts community partner forums to identify needs, solutions and fund action steps. Roy Van Anda, community engagement manager, attributes their extensive local reach to slowing down and connecting.
“It can be easy to run with what feels right or what is easiest,” says Van Anda. “But in order to have the greatest impact, it requires time to listen and learn… Meet your community where they are at.”
Part of the success of Weldwerks’ helping culture is including employees in ideas and solutions. Staff can join Weldwerks’ Doin’ Good Committee to learn about community issues and choose a charitable organization to support every quarter. Van Anda notes how education, connection and a sense of purpose better the health of the brewery itself.
“Yes, it is a job, but a job becomes far more meaningful and impactful when you are connected with the good it does for others,” says Van Anda.
Heroes Brewing Company
Rochester, New York
From honoring fallen soldiers to raising awareness for mental health, every beer at Heroes Brewing Company benefits a cause. Heroes has sold over 23,000 cans since it opened in December 2020, helping over 45 local nonprofits or charities.
Founders Marlene and Greg Fagen have seen brews like the #RealConvo IPA for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Much Love Wheat for NAMI touch those impacted by suicide and create a safe space to share. Greg recalls several guests who were inspired by the beer to create their own mental health initiatives. He also explained how the presence of the beer signaled this was a place that cared about mental health, making vulnerable discussions possible.
Greg’s emotion shows as he recounts a crucial conversation with a guest who was contemplating suicide. “We made a beer and it allowed somebody to open up and ask for help. I mean, that’s why we do what we do.”
Heroes is sharing its #RealConvo label and recipe with every New York State brewery this year to release in September, which is National Suicide Awareness month.
Florida Brewers Guild
The Florida Brewers Guild took on mental wellness challenges by organizing available resources, covering mental health topics at their annual conference and tackling insurance coverage.
“The catalyst for action came in early 2020, even before Covid-19 was on most people’s minds,” says Sean Nordquist, Guild executive director. “In the span of two months, four members of the Florida brewing community took their own lives. It was a shock and a gut punch, repeated over and over.”
Lack of insurance coverage, especially for mental health care, is common in the craft brewing industry. The Guild’s new association health care plan includes an Employee Assistance Program for mental health services.
“I knew the Guild was in a position to at the very least offer resources to those who felt they had nowhere else to go,” says Nordquist.
Driven by losing a loved one who died by suicide, co-owners Emily and Dave Mobley commit Limitless Brewing funds to mental health outreach.
“There has to be more resources for people to reach out, without judgment and know there is help,” says Emily. “So many people struggle with mental health issues and keep it to themselves.”
Every year, this Kansas City-area brewery creates a new beer whose proceeds help their county mental health center. Last year, Limitless sponsored training for a counselor to work with local schools, teaching students and staff how to approach those struggling.
“We think it is important to just share the message that this isn’t just an ‘us’ thing,” says Emily. “It takes a community to reach people where they are. Our main hope in this is just to keep one person from experiencing the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.”
Von Ebert Brewing
For more than a decade, Von Ebert Brewing has aided Oregon’s Lines For Life (L4L), a nonprofit that works to prevent substance abuse and suicide. In addition to funds, the brewery creates auction experiences like the popular chance to design a Von Ebert beer and label with staff. That beer is then released to the public to raise awareness for L4L.
“We were drawn to L4L because of the immediate, measurable and meaningful impact they are having in our community with regards to crisis intervention,” says Tom Cook, founder of Von Ebert Brewing.
Von Ebert also believes in support within its own walls. The brewery’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee teamed with the Oregon Brewers Guild to host the first intern in the state’s Mashing Barriers program, increasing underrepresented individuals’ access to Oregon’s brewing industry.
One percent of all sales support firefighters, first responders and community needs through wildfire prevention, real-time natural disaster response and mental health recovery programs.
“You want to partner with an organization that shares your same passion and drive and is going to help you move the needle to effect meaningful change,” says Bill Moses, founder and CEO of Flying Embers.
Roadmap Brewing Co.
San Antonio, Texas
Roadmap Brewing created the IPA base recipe for the national awareness initiative Hops for the Day. Last year, over 200 brewers joined the national program by crafting a specific IPA in the hopes of destigmatizing conversations about mental health.
“This open dialogue is something we’ve taken seriously since childhood when my best friend sadly took his own life,” says Dustin Baker, co-owner and brewer. “You have to take the conversations to the people where they’re at rather than wait for them to find the conversations themselves. And sometimes where they’re at is sitting at the bar in a taproom.”
Baker stresses that breweries can release the IPA whenever it works in their production timeline. “It also emphasizes that these are conversations that need to happen every day, not just in the month of May.”
“The really cool thing about today’s breweries is that they’re about so much more than just beer,” says Baker. “They’ve become community builders, community centers and community leaders.”