Derby City Dog Rescue is just one of the animal charities Old Louisville Brewery has worked with. | Courtesy of Old Louisville Brewery

Walk into any brewery and you’ll find a variety of people chatting, sipping, perhaps lazily looking at a TV screen or at their phones. The smell of grains often permeates the air, chalkboards or digital menus trumpet what’s on tap.

What often goes unnoticed is the community spirit within — a brewery is just a small business like any other. More than likely, it’s owned by a local brewer-cum-entrepreneur or perhaps a beer enthusiast who long has fancied him or herself owning a brewery.

And what comes with that is a commitment to community. Owning a local business is about making a living, but it’s also about becoming part of the fabric of a community. Breweries in Louisville and around Kentucky find a wide variety of ways to “give back.”

Wade Mattingly, co-owner of Old Louisville Brewery, is a dog lover; after losing his dog Molly, a rescue, he was inspired to help other dogs find permanent homes. Old Louisville Brewery hosts regular events that have supported four separate dog rescue leagues — Derby City Dog Rescue, Saving Sunny, Pit Bulls of St. Francis, Fat Heads — among other charities, such as Mattingly Edge, which works with social integration of developmentally challenged individuals, as well as a food drive for the Cabbage Patch Settlement House.

Regardless the cause, since before he opened the brewery with his brother, Ken, Mattingly has believed in being a participating member of the community.

“We think it is important to support the community that supports us,” he said. “We also firmly believe helping others empowers them to keep doing the awesome things they do to make the world around us a little better.”

Yappy Hour is a charitable tradition at Apocalypse. | Courtesy of Apocalypse Brew Works

While breweries and dogs seem to go hand in hand — check out any Yappy Hour event at Apocalypse Brew Works, which supports animal charities and raised $4,200 in 2017 — the areas of interest are diverse.

Some breweries have “pet” charities (double entendre intended), while some are willing to help in a variety of areas. For instance, events at Apocalypse have helped music-related charities to homeless charities.

Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse is one that spreads its wings similarly. As a partner with the Louisville Coopers, the support club for Louisville City FC, the brewery created Ball Control this year, from which 50 cents per beer was donated to the Coopers’ chosen charity, Shirley’s Way.

In the fall, Against the Grain raised $10,000 for the Squallis Puppeteers through the brewery’s annual Bo & Luke beer release, and starting in 2018, a new program will be unveiled that will feature a monthly local charity grant as well as a podcast format interview platform for local difference-makers to showcase their work. This is in addition to other random donations and community assists.

“We have made a policy of trying to say ‘yes’ to as much as possible,” said Adam Watson, Against the Grain co-owner. “While we cannot always meet every need, we try to give something to any legitimate charity that asks.”

Goodwood Brewing is taking altruism to retail shelves — and with a different angle. Beginning in 2018, cans of the brewery’s American pale ale will feature American heroes on the back, starting with a partnership with Louisville Metro Police to honor four fallen Louisville officers. Donations will be made to each recognized hero’s foundation through subsequent market promotions.

“We wanted to pay homage to our American Heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice — in our community as well as the communities we distribute in,” said Goodwood CEO Ted Mitzlaff. “We also wanted to honor the families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. It’s a small gesture we can make to say thank you to these men and women who made an enormous sacrifice on behalf of their country and their communities.”

Pints for Parkinson’s packs people in for a good cause. Photo courtesy of Pints for Parkinson’s

And while Gordon-Biersch may be a brewery and restaurant chain, make no mistake that Louisville’s, like the others, is committed to being part of the brewing community and the community in general.

A member of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, Gordon-Biersch regularly holds and supports events to benefit local charities.

General Manager Jason S. Smith said Gordon-Biersch raised well over $25,000 in 2017 through donating various sales of beers to specific local organizations, such as Apron Inc., Cure CF, Boys and Girls Club of Kentuckiana, and others. In addition, for the third straight year, G-B hosted its event Pints for Parkinson’s, raising more than $23,000.

Gordon-Biersch Louisville won an award based on its community contributions.

“Breweries are more than just businesses,” said Derek Selznick, director of the Guild. “We are employers, neighbors, gathering places and a part of our communities. And like any good neighbor, we are committed to helping our communities thrive by giving back through service, partnership and philanthropy.”

In other words, Louisville’s craft beer scene is not just about team trivia, tap takeovers and new releases — other good things are brewing as well.

Great Flood Brewing Co. regularly hosts charity events, as does 3rd Turn Brewing, Holsopple Brewing — you get the picture. And the Guild’s Kentucky Craft Bash festival, the annual Fest of Ale, Tailspin Ale Fest and other events are in on the act, too, supporting organizations like Cure CF, Dare to Care Food Bank, WHAS Crusade for Children and others.

“Raising money for Dare to Care Food Bank through Tailspin Ale Fest is so important, because we are able to help them purchase truckloads of fresh vegetables and fruit to be distributed around Louisville and Southern Indiana,” said Tisha Gainey, co-founder of Tailspin. “No one should go hungry. Period. Yet the basic need for food is a problem that exists. As they say, ‘Beer is food.’ So let’s provide for those in need.”

Tailspin co-founder Trevor Cravens noted that a single individual might donate, but people working in tandem on events like a beer festival can make a donation more impactful — as evidenced by the more than $40,000 raised for Dare to Care since the festival’s inception.

“That’s why it is so important for Tailspin to bring all of the enthusiasts, breweries and sponsors together,” Cravens said. “We are the choir directors.”

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Email Kevin at [email protected]