Help Rebuild Belgium’s Hof ten Dormaal

Yesterday, January 6, was a dark day in Tildonk, Belgium, located in the Flemish Brabant, near the center of the northern part of the country. Tildonk is located in the municipality of Haacht, and that whole area has less than 14,000 people, so it’s a fairly small village. It was also home to a true farmhouse brewery, Hof ten Dormaal. The small brewery made a wide variety of beers, including a range of Belgians, sours, wild beers, a barrel-aged series and a number of experimental beers, too. I say “was,” because yesterday starting around 6:45 a.m. there was a fire at the brewery which completely destroyed the farm brewery, and the “bottling line, warm chamber and a big part of the stock (another account mentions thousands of bottles) are completely lost.” The brewery originally came from Montana, and was installed in 2009. The following year, they added a bottling line. Fortunately, the brewhouse and fermenters appear to have been spared, and, more importantly, no one in the family was injured.


During last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge, I had the pleasure of visiting the brewery, meeting André Janssens and his family, and tasting many of their beers along with my fellow judges. It’s out in the open countryside, a beautiful rustic setting. We visited the brewery, the tasting room, but spent most of our time in the garden, opening and enjoying the beer made right there at the farm.

The farm grows cereal and keeps cattle, and is “99% self-sustainable.” The farm grows its own hops and malt, their water comes from a well on the property and they make their energy from rape seeds grown in their fields. Yeast is the only ingredient they buy for brewing. They feed the leftovers to their livestock. Perhaps you’ve had their beer, it is imported by Twelve Percent Imports and available in California, along with Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

Here’s a short video showing part of the damage to the brewery and the farm buildings.

It didn’t always look like that, of course. Below are a few of my photos from my visit last November. Happily, there’s already an effort underway to return the once-picturesque brewery to former glory. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up and is soliciting donations. If you love good beer, please be generous.

Outside the farmhouse brewery.

I loved these tiny clay shields on the brick wall outside of the farmhouse.

From the gate outside looking in to Hof ten Dormaal.

Cafe seating on a patio outside the tasting room of the brewery.

Inside the tasting room, local artwork hangs on the wall above wooden kegs aging beer.

Owner and brewmaster André Janssens leads a tour of his brewery.

Hof ten Dormaal’s brewhouse.

The courtyard garden, surrounded by the family home, farm buildings, and the brewery.

Some of the Brussels Beer Challenge judges posing in the courtyard.


Again, if you love great beer and want to help support it, this is a great way to help out a family and their farmhouse brewery. Please donate to help rebuild the brewery through Go Fund Me and definitely go visit the brewery the next time you’re in Belgium.

UPDATE: Sam Vanderstraeten, the creator of the GoFundMe campaign posted some Day 2 photographs showing more of the destruction wrought by the fire.




All Hopped Up For The Cure 2014

Last night, Russian River Brewing kicked off their annual month-long All Hopped Up For the Cure charity event, raising money for the local Sutter Medical Services in Santa Rosa and specifically their Breast Care Center. They do it every October, in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a cause owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo feel quite deeply about. It’s a big one for me, too. I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was only 21, when she was just 42. More than two dozen Summit doctors and breast cancer survivors were on hand to show their support. While this year’s efforts just began, there’s plenty of time to stop by the brewpub and help this very important cause in a variety of ways. As they do each year, there are three big items that are being auctioned, and raffle tickets are available until the drawing takes place, on October 30th, 2014 during their annual Halloween Bash. You need not be present to win, but you do have to answer your phone when Natalie calls from the stage. Here’s what you can win:


Raffle tickets can be bought at the pub and placed in lucite boxes at the front of the brewpub. You can also purchase raffle tickets without visiting the pub by contacting Aura Helwick at


The big prize is a brand new White Vespa Primavera 150cc with “All Hopped Up for the Cure” decals. The winner is responsible for claiming their prize in person at Revolution Moto in Santa Rosa! Must be 18 to win. Must answer the phone if/when I call at around 10pm on Oct. 30 to be eligible to win! Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25.


There’s also a Pink Electra Amersterdam Joyride bicycle, graciously donated by The Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa! Raffle tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20.


And lastly for the big raffle items, a very cool Custom Built Guitar, a pink accoustic guitar hand-made by Timmy Lovold and friends! Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $25.

Brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo also created a special beer for the events, Framboise For A Cure, which will be available on draft and in 375ml bottles available, but only at the brewpub. FFAC is a sour barrel-aged blonde ale with 31 pounds per barrel of fresh raspberries, giving it a beautiful reddish/pink hue. Each year, it’s only around until it runs out, though they’re setting aside a set number of bottles to sell each day so it’s not gone too soon, and 100% of proceeds from sales of this beer will be donated to Sutter. I had some last night, and it’s really tasty, with big fruit flavors, not too sour but just enough jammy, puckering goodness to keep sipping.


And finally, Russian River creates a new graphic each year for the event, and this year’s logo is really cool, as far as I’m concerned.


The logo is available on Men’s T-Shirts, a Men’s Workshirt and a Ladies T-Shirts. All three are available online or at the pub, with 100% of proceeds donated to Summit, as well.

Give generously this year to help make breast cancer a thing of the past, or at least increase the odds that more children don’t lose their mothers, husbands their wives or friends their friends to breast cancer.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Brookston & Porter

So you’ve probably noticed that one of the latest internet memes is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The idea involves “dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.” Also, the “challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same.” I was challenged by my friend and colleague, Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News, who also tapped Stephen Beaumont and Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association. So here’s my video, with my son Porter, who decided he wanted to join me.

You can find out more about how to donate at the ALS Association or the MDA.


I also challenged three friends:

  1. Fal Allen, brewmaster, Anderson Valley Brewing
  2. Justin Crossley, founder, The Brewing Network
  3. John Holl, Editor, All About Beer magazine

Now it’s their turn. No thanks necessary.

All Hopped Up For The Cure 2013

Yesterday I had lunch at Russian River Brewing, invited by co-owner Natalie Cilurzo as one of a small group of friends who had at least one thing in common: we’d each lost someone to breast cancer. For me, it was my mother when I was 22, and she was only 42. Each year, the Santa Rosa brewpub rolls out its biggest charity effort of the year to raise money for the local Sutter Breast Care Center. The entire month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the brewpub is festooned in pink and several great prizes are auctioned throughout the month.


This is the eighth year they’ve made the All Hopped Up for the Cure charity effort, and last year they raised $76,000 for breast cancer. SO far, they’re on target to beat that total this year. Here’s Natalie Cilurzo writing on the brewery’s blog about this year’s charity drive:

So here we are and it’s already October, my favorite month of the year. Aside from it being beautiful in Sonoma County, we host our annual month-long fundraiser for the Sutter Women’s Health Care Center of Santa Rosa, which brings me great joy! All of the money we raise/donate goes directly to help uninsured or underinsured women AND men in our community receive life saving screening and treatment for Breast Cancer. Recently we have become acquainted with several recipients of our fundraising efforts. Some of their lives have been changed or even saved by the services offered by Sutter. Check out our special Breast Cancer Awareness Month page on our website during October for more info on raffle items, how to get this year’s cute shirt and other interesting things!


This Saturday will be the final blowout of the month-long charity drive — a costume party — when the auction winners will be revealed. But there’s still time to help their efforts, both with donations and buying raffle tickets for the auction items. The big ticket item, a pink Genuine Buddy 50cc scooter, you can try to win for $10 a raffle ticker, or 3 for $25. The winner of the scooter will announced at 10 p.m. Saturday night.


There are a few other terrific items being raffled, too. For instance, there’s a custom-made guitar by local luthier Tom Ribbecke of Ribbecke Guitars. To win the guitar, it’s also $10 a raffle ticker, or 3 for $25.


There’s also a pink bicycle, an Electra Beach Cruiser, “graciously donated by The Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa.” Tickets for the bike are only $1 per raffle ticket, or 6 for $5.


There’s also some cool t-shirts, designed by local artist Laurel Gregory.


Gregory also created a pink painting of a Pliny the Elder bottle that will be auctioned Saturday.


The scooter will be announced at 10 p.m., but the rest of the items will have the winners for them announced throughout the evening. So come and enjoy an evening at Russian River and help raise money for a very worthy cause. There will also be music, by Brothers Horse. In addition to Russian River’s regular beers, the special release Framboise for a Cure 2013 (bottles of which are sold out) will be tapped at 5:00 p.m. The beer uses Temptation as its base beer, to which 800 pounds of fresh raspberries are added (30 pounds per barrel), and then it’s aged for several months in Chardonnay barrels spiked with brett, lacto, and pedio. There are only two kegs of it left, and they’ll keep selling it until it runs out. This is your last chance to try this year’s version. There will also be 23 special growlers, screened in pink ink, and full of the Framboise beer available for a minimum donation of $100.

Come on down Saturday night and get All Hopped Up For the Cure!


It’s October: Time To Make The Beer Community Feel Guilty

Ah, it’s October again, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and right on cue, it’s time to be insulted once more by the anti-alcohol bunch that can’t let any good deed go unpunished. This time around it’s Alcohol Justice — boy, have they been busy lately — who’s telling us how hypocritical we are for wanting to do anything to support the quest to find a cure for breast cancer. Alcohol Justice calls any such efforts a “mockery of public health, breast cancer advocacy, and alcohol policy,” and most importantly, a “mockery of breast cancer survivors and their loved ones.” Well, given that I lost my own mother to breast cancer and I love the fact that so many breweries, many of whom are my friends, take the time and effort to raise money for that cause, I have only two words for Alcohol Justice: “fuck you.”

You don’t get to decide how people spend their money, where they make their charitable donations or how. In the example highlighted in “If It Makes You Wealthy: Sheryl Crow & Treasury Wine Estates Sell Out Women’s Health,” the promotion they’re objecting to is a large wine conglomerate raising money for breast cancer research with Sheryl Crow’s support and participation, something that was announced this past July. Crow herself is a breast cancer survivor so they’re really thumbing their nose at her, too. If a cancer survivor chooses to try and do some good to raise money for a cause she feels personally invested in, it’s pretty shameless of you to try to grab headlines by calling her names and publicly telling her not to support that cause unless she does it the way they think it should be done.

They also take issue with Crow because the promotion is promising to “donate up to $100,000 to breast cancer charities,” an amount that Alcohol Justice derisively has decided is not nearly enough. I guess their first choice would be for her not to raise any money for breast cancer, but if she does, it had better be a large enough amount to satisfy them. They’re taking this page out of the playbook of Breast Cancer Action, who a few years ago declared that everyone of us in the alcohol industry trying to do good, and raise money for breast cancer, should be “ashamed of ourselves.” I wrote about that when they went on television and insulted us, in Biting the Hand That Feeds You.

In the paragraph before Alcohol Justice calls me, and the rest of us in the alcohol industry who care about breast cancer, a mockery, they claim that “[p]romoting alcohol as a healthy product is a harmful public relations tactic,” and suggest that the problem is “cancer advocate Crow is applying her considerable celebrity capital to increase sales of a product that contributes to the incidence of breast cancer in women.” The study they cite is from 2011, Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns, and breast cancer risk, which did indeed conclude that “[l]ow levels of alcohol consumption were associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk,” which other studies have also shown, but that’s not the entire story, of course. One thing these incidents tend to have in common is relying on just one particular study as the foundation for why we in the alcohol industry should be feeling guilty for trying to help raise awareness or money for breast cancer. But what about the bigger picture? Here’s what I wrote about this three years ago.

[A]t least one [study] done by Kaiser Permanente shows that it’s the amount that matters, the higher the intake the greater the risk, meaning moderate drinking has less risk.

Still others show just the opposite. For example, a 2008 study at the Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal showed that Compounds in Beer and Wine Slow Breast Cancer Cell Growth. Still another suggests that “xanthohumol found in hops [has] the potential to lower the risk of prostate cancer, [and] researchers believe it could also reduce breast cancer risk in a similar manner — by binding to the receptors on breast cancer cells and blocking the effects of estrogen which stimulates the growth of certain types of breast cancer.” That’s about the discovery that xanthohumol, a Cancer-fighting agent found in beer.

In a fact sheet about the relationship between Alcohol and the Risk of Breast Cancer at Cornell University, there’s this sage advice:

Researchers have reported that women who consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol have a decreased risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease. Since more women are affected by and may die from cardiovascular diseases than breast cancer, the recommendations regarding alcohol and breast cancer may seem to contradict the reports regarding cardiovascular disease. The 1996 Guidelines on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention from the American Cancer Society suggest that most adults can drink, but they should limit their intake. Given the complex relationship between alcohol consumption and different diseases, any recommendations should be based on information about all health risks and benefits.

Exactly. Of course women should make individual decisions based upon their family history and/or other personal factors, but making a pronouncement for everyone is wrong. The overall positive effects of moderate alcohol consumption have to be weighed against individual risk factors. For example, total mortality is effected positively by moderate alcohol consumption, that is numerous studies and meta-studies have shown that people who drink in moderation will most likely live longer than people who abstain completely or who regularly binge drink. And that’s taking into account both the negative and positive risks and rewards.

So once again Alcohol Justice is bending the truth for their own purposes, and making the world black and white, in which it’s their way or the highway. They know best. You don’t have to worry about thinking for yourself, not when they can do the thinking for you. I love that they refer to the wine company as “posing as a health advocate,” as if anyone is “anti-health.” As if the people, and yes those of us in the alcohol industry are indeed people, even if Alcohol Justice paints us as less than human, wanted people to get breast cancer. Even if it were true that everyone who drank alcohol would get cancer (it’s not) why would anyone object to us donating money to finding a cure for it or helping to build awareness? So many people’s lives have been touched by cancer generally, and breast cancer in specific, but the way Alcohol Justice frames it, none of us should have anything to do with alcohol, or we’re mocking our loved ones. How many other professions or industries would they want to ban people from engaging in if they might result a potential danger. Should people who work for gun companies be ashamed of themselves because others may use a gun in a crime or to murder someone? Should fast food workers feel guilty because the people who buy their food might be eating the wrong kinds of food, leading to health problems, obesity and disease, and might place a burden on the healthcare system. Do you know what the ultimate cause of death is? Living. As R.D. Laing quipped. “Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent.” We all make choices about how we use the time that’s afforded each of us. And Alcohol Justice can jump down off their high horse and stop telling the rest of how to live our lives. That would certainly improve the time I have left on this world, so I can get back to enjoying myself with a good beer.

The Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda: Punishment Or Profit

Regular bulletin readers know well my disdain for the hypocritical anti-alcohol organizations trying their damndest to remove all alcohol from society or, failing that, make everyone who makes, sells or enjoys alcohol as miserable as they are. Not surprisingly, at the recent Alcohol Policy 16 Conference, which took place in Arlington, Virginia in early April, they revealed just how far their hypocrisy extends yet again.

Angela Logomasini, who attended the conference on behalf of Wine Policy, noted that during a panel discussion on alcohol tax policy that the “entire discussion revolved around how to lobby for taxes and profit in the process.” Given that the subtitle of the entire conference was “Building Blocks for Sound Alcohol Policies,” she can be excused for believing that the discussion might involve “research related to the impact of taxes on alcohol abuse” or whether “higher taxes really reduce alcohol abuse.” Such reasonable topics, however, were not even discussed. Instead, as I said, the entirety of the talk “revolved around how to lobby for taxes and profit in the process.”

Logomasini continued her description of the panel discussion:

Rebecca Ramirez of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University presented her qualitative research on the framing of pro-tax messaging for use in lobbying campaigns. It included interviews with policymakers and activists involved in these campaigns. Ramirez’s discussion eventually turned to earmarking, which is apparently the key reason many groups are involved. Officials with one disability advocacy group, she noted, told her flat out they simply didn’t care about the public health impacts of taxes. They were in the game solely to get some of the tax revenue steered toward their organization.

She wonders aloud how that might serve the public good, and it appears she’s not the only one. Surprisingly enough, Bruce Lee Livingston, sheriff of my local anti-alcohol posse Alcohol Justice, disagrees, apparently believing profiting from lobbying efforts does not serve the public health. He takes a different view. Livingston “commented during the question and answer portion that activists are unable to get taxes high enough to actually produce positive public health benefits. Rather, he called for a ‘charge-for-harm’ approach, which is based on the assumption that anyone who drinks deserves to be punished.” That’s the same bullshit approach he took trying to get an additional tax on alcohol in San Francisco in 2010, all but writing the script for Supervisor John Avalos’ ultimately failed Alcohol Mitigation Fee Ordinance.

So, as Angela Logomasini observes, there were only two approaches or reasons to raise alcohol taxes brought up by essentially every neo-prohibitionist group in the country, or at least in attendance. As I’ve been ranting for years now, none of those reasons had anything to do with public health, or safety, or any other lofty goals. These self-proclaimed “public health advocates” only want to raise taxes on alcohol for two reasons: either to enrich themselves and profit from the alcohol companies their groups target or to punish every single person who dares to enjoy a pint of beer or glass of wine. And yet they still maintain non-profit status.

If nothing else, this should teach us that like many modern charitable organizations, they’ve strayed very far from their original purpose and self-preservation and profit are their only motives now. As I’ve said many, many times, they need a reason to exist and so they keep reinventing themselves in order to survive and keep their — in the parlance of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles — phony baloney jobs. And so raising money becomes the driving force, not any interest in bettering the world, instead just pandering to their members’ fears, paranoia and prejudices. And if all of us who enjoy beer, and drink responsibly, get punished in the process, so what? Apparently, that’s just a bonus.

No alcoholic beverages

All Hopped Up For The Cure At Russian River

It’s October now, and that means that Russian River Brewing is once again All Hopped Up For the Cure, their annual charity benefitting Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is the sixth year they’ve raised money for Sutter Breast Care Center in Santa Rosa. Last year, they donated $67,000 to the center. Their goal for this year’s efforts is $75,000. Stop by the pub this month, as they’ll be a lot going on and swag to buy to help support the cause. Here’s co-owner Natalie Cilurzo writing on the brewery’s blog about their charity drive:

We also have 3 different styles of commemorative “All Hopped Up For The Cure” shirts available for purchase at the pub and in our online gift shop! Original design on this year’s shirts is by local tattoo artist, Joe Leonard, and Matt Morgan from Farm Fresh Shirts. In addition to the beer and the shirts, we are raffling off some very cool items later in the month. The Pink Vespa, Pink Guitar, and Pink Bicycle are being delivered this week for our raffle on October 27th. Raffle tickets available and items on display at the pub all month long. I will post pictures once they show up. I have only seen the scooter in person, but the guitar and bike remain a mystery. And NEW this year is the 2013 Pin-Up Calendar also available for purchase at the pub!

This one is always personal to me, because my own mother passed away when she was only 42 — and I was just 22 — a victim of breast cancer. So please generously support Russian River’s All Hopped Up for the Cure.

Bartender Amir Bramell and co-owner Natalie Cilurzo pouring pink beer as the month-long breast cancer awareness charity drive begins at Russian River Brewery.

For a second year, they’ve brewed a special beer, Framboise for a Cure 2012, a perfectly pink beer brewed with raspberries. The beer uses Temptation as its base beer, to which 800 pounds of fresh raspberries are added, and then it’s aged for several months in Chardonnay barrels spiked with brett, lacto, and pedio. The beer is available only at the Santa Rosa brewpub (with 3 notable exceptions) on draft and in bottles throughout October (or until it runs out). 100% of the proceeds of this beer are donated to the local breast cancer charity. Bottles are $15. They will run out. BTW, it’s absolutely delicious, a near perfect blend of sour and sweet, tart fruit.

Danny Williams Needs Your Help

If you’re in the brewing industry, and especially if you’ve entered your beers in the Great American Beer Festival and/or the World Beer Cup, then you no doubt know Danny Williams. He’s worked with the Brewers Association at GABF for a number of years, and since 2001 has been in charge of the beer for competition judging. It’s his job to see that it arrives, is maintained under the proper conditions, and eventually makes it into the hands of the judges. Last year there were 3,930 beers judged at GABF. So it’s quite a task.

Danny Williams and a friend
Danny Williams and Lindsay Husted, also from the Brewers Association, at the World Beer Cup dinner in Chicago two years ago.

Unfortunately, Danny cannot work these days. He’s recently been diagnosed with cancer, and has cancerous legions all over his stomach and pancreas, which tragically is a type of cancer that typically has a very low survival rate. The pain he’s enduring is so great that he is simply unable to work, and he’s chosen not to attempt to treat it since the prognosis is so bleak and recovery unlikely. Danny’s decided instead to enjoy what time is left to him with his friends and family as best he can.

Danny is only 52 and has two grown kids from his first marriage. He also has an 8-year old son, Fletcher, from his most recent. As you might expect, not being able to work, having mouths to feed, and medical bills to pay, has left him in dire financial straits. At the moment, he is in danger of losing his home and the infamous “beer mine” — a former gold mine, sadly with no more riches — where he ages his beer collection. It’s even been mentioned in the New York Times. His friends and family are trying their best to make sure he can stay in his home during his remaining months and, if possible, that it can stay in his family after he’s gone. I can’t stress enough how precarious his situation really is.

His good friend, Ben Spencer — who’s the head brewer at Magnolia in San Francisco — recently went to Colorado to spend some time with Danny. Talking with Ben, I think it was rough on him seeing his friend in such a difficult situation. It’s hard for a lot of people to deal with such tragedy. I know. I went through something very similar with my own mother when I was in my early twenties. Ben reflected on seeing Danny last week and asks that you help out his friend, and your friend, as best you’re able.

Danny is a great man, and an amazing advocate of the craft brewing movement. He has affected all of us in many ways. I understand that times are tough, but please help my brother out. He needs us now.

Please donate what you can to help Danny. If you’re a brewery or other business and want to make a more substantial donation, there is a fund set up at First Bank in Boulder, Colorado under the name the “Danny Williams Fund.” Contact me or Ben Spencer for the account number and routing information. Or just post a comment below and one of us will send you the information.

To make a smaller, or really any amount, donation, we’ve set up a simple PayPal donation that’s very easy to use. Just click on the button below, fill in any amount you wish and follow the on screen instructions. Thank you.


Below are some photos of Danny enjoying life, which is how he should be remembered.

Tom Nickel (owner of O’Brien’s in San Diego), Nancy Johnson, Director of GABF and Danny at Slow Food Nation 2008 in San Francisco.

Danny in the former goldmine beer cellar.

Danny’s Angels, after a BA event.

Be an angel, too. Please donate generously to make Danny’s remaining time as comfortable, enjoyable and stress-free as possible; and help secure a future for his family after he’s gone.


Also, while I don’t usually condone plagiarism, this is a special circumstance. If you write a blog or website, feel free to take any or all of this content, text, links and photos, to help spread the word to help out Danny. The more people we can reach, the more we can help. Thanks.

Make Lew Bryson’s Christmas A Happy One!

Okay people, time to step up to the bar. A month ago, a new project was announced on Kickstarter starring my friend and colleague Lew Bryson. The project is being produced by Rudy Vegliante of Green Leaf Productions and the idea is to create a series of six half-hour television shows starring Lew. With 30 days to go, only 6% of the needed funds to make the show a reality have been raised. A mere 65 people have pledged $3,716 of the $60K needed. Frankly, that’s pathetic.

C’mon, beer people. I’ve pledged $300, and would have gone higher if I wasn’t trying to make a rather large purchase at the moment. Surely, there are more than 65 people who have benefitted from Lew Bryson’s reviews, laughter, rantings, writings, speaking engagements, etc. Just his being in the beer community makes it a better place. We’ve all seen what happens when non-beer people try to make a TV show about beer. At best it comes off half-baked, full of misinformation, half-truths and propaganda. At worst, it’s a disaster. I’ve personally been involved in trying to get several such projects off the ground. None have gotten very far. It’s tough. Most people outside our rarified community don’t quite get why we’re so passionate about it, and that shows in the finished products that have been made so far.

So here’s a chance for one of our own to be the voice of craft beer, celebrating it in a way we can probably all agree with. And with guaranteed laughter, guffaws and unbridled chuckles thrown in for good measure. Lew is the right big galoot for this job.

Lew has just over 2,500 twitter followers, I have a little over 4,000. Even assuming for some overlap, that’s got to be around 6,000. If each one of you pledged just $10, Lew would be home for Christmas, with all the funding he needs. It’s the price of about two pints, give or take. Surely that’s not too much to create a one-of-kind television show about craft beer, by craft beer, for craft beer. Think of it as giving back to the beer community that has enriched your life, in the spirit of the holidays. Give Lew Bryson a Malty Christmas and a Hoppy New Year.

You can get all the details from my previous post or, better still, directly from the Kickstarter project page for American Beer Blogger.

Okay, I’m climbing back down off my soapbox. Resume holiday merriment.

Me and Lew at Berkeley’s Triple Rock last year.

When “The Cure” Is Worse Than The Disease

This is only tangentially related to beer, so caveat lector — let the reader beware — and concerns some shenanigans by another breast cancer charity again. You may recall last year, a San Francisco-based one, Breast Cancer Action, threw beer under the bus and told the alcohol community they should be ashamed of themselves for raising money for the worthy cause of breast cancer awareness. In my write-up at the time, Biting the Hand That Feeds You, I remarked about a disturbing trend I’d been noting with large charitable organizations.

I’m really starting to believe that there’s now a “charitable industrial complex,” that these behemoth charities have become big business in their own right. And from what some of you have written, and from what I’ve seen, it appears that, like many big corporations, much of the profits go to the people who run them and only a little goes to shareholders, or in this case to the actual charitable cause itself. They seem to have become more about the money than the well-intentioned passion to do something about an issue that led to their formation.

More proof of my growing uneasiness with behemoth charities came to light recently, this time from Susan G. Komen For the Cure. They’ve started sending out cease and desist letters to over a hundred (possibly hundreds of) smaller charities threatening them with lawsuits if they don’t stop using their trademarked “for the cure” phrase in such organizations as “Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure.”

Stephen Colbert Show on January 3 mentioned this in his “Tip of the Hat/Wag of My Finger” segment:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag – Susan G. Komen Foundation & Spider-Man Musical<a>
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> March to Keep Fear Alive

Well, the Huffington Post report referenced in the Colbert segment was also sent to me today by Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, whose own campaign, All Hopped Up For the Cure, seems destined to get one of these threatening letters, too. After reading Susan G. Komen Foundation Elbows Out Charities Over Use Of The Word ‘Cure’, I think it’s even worse than Colbert’s piece suggested, and that was pretty bad.

The majority of the charities being threatened by Susan G. Komen appear to be small “Mom & Pop” charities with few resources to fight a lawsuit with the big law firms retained by Komen. They’ve apparently been spending a million dollars a year, money they received from donors which ironically did not go toward finding a “cure,” on legal fees alone.

They told one charity that “they own ‘cure’ in a name and we had to stop using it, even though we were raising money for an entirely different cause.” They told another to “never use the color pink in conjunction with their fundraising.” This is what I meant before. This is just bullying, plain and simple. I understand that companies have an affirmative duty to protect what they believe to be their trademarks or brands, but there are ways to do things, and ways not to do things. It’s seems to me that being a bully while at the same time claiming to be a charity could easily be a PR disaster.

What this ends up being about is protecting their own revenue stream, which if they were a “for profit” business would make perfect sense. But when protecting your own revenue stream also means taking money away from other charities, it’s not as black and white any longer, at least not to me. The charitable communities should, I think, be working together toward a common goal, even if they go about it in different ways. Curing cancer should be the only goal that matters, but Komen’s actions seem to show that it’s become more about “who” finds the cure or can muster the most money and resources to shut down their “competition” from using the same effective fund-raising tactics. It’s hard for me to support any charity whose goal seems to be more about the money and power than actually finding a cure.

I don’t care how “legal” their actions are or what side of the law their actions fall on, it still comes across badly. There’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. These now behemoth charities used to be about passionately trying to do good work in the world, whether fighting a disease or helping people in need, or what have you. But increasingly they seem no different than any other big business, using their large resources, political clout, etc. to throw their weight around with little regard for their original mission or purpose. As one of the women whose charity’s been targeted, Sue Prom ends the HuffPo article with the following.

“I used to give money to Komen all the time, but now I’m just kind of wary of them,” [Sue Prom] said. “I’m not buying Yoplait yogurt or anything that has the word ‘Komen’ on it. They seem to have forgotten what charity is about.”