Last November, dangerous wildfires engulfed a portion of central California leaving upwards of 85 dead and many unaccounted for over the course of weeks in what became the state’s worst wildfire ever. When a significant portion of Butte County was wiped out, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company immediately sprung into action. Based in nearby Chico, Sierra Nevada created a special pale ale and offered up the recipe to breweries across the United States, with every dollar going to benefit those affected by the wildfire. Now, months later, the company is still waiting for nearly half of the proceeds from the over 1,400 breweries that made the special brew.
That’s right, nearly a quarter of the country’s breweries banded together to help Sierra Nevada and its community in a time of need – pretty impressive. However, a leaked letter from Sierra Grossman, the co-founder and Vice President of the company, to many of the participating brewers noted that Sierra Nevada has yet to receive the funds, with the deadline passing earlier this month. The letter was recently confirmed by Fortune and can be seen below thanks to the Worst Beer Blog on Twitter. The brewery has been in contact with those companies that sold the beer, which was aptly named Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, and fully expects each one to honor their commitment, though things look troubling. Something of this magnitude might take time, considering all who are involved.
It was an effort that obviously meant a ton to Sierra Nevada and other local companies. Businesses in Chico had an average of 15 percent of employees lose their homes as the fire burned more than 150,000 acres and destroyed 13,000 homes. Sierra Nevada even worked with suppliers for the ingredients to be donated to those breweries participating, to insure a singular tasting beer. But just because some of the money hasn’t been ponied up doesn’t mean what Sierra Nevada has collected isn’t going to good use. According to USA Today, about $15 million was set to be raised from the effort and several millions have already been used to help disaster recovery and child trauma reduction groups.
As news of the drama spread, Sierra Nevada decided to release the following statement:
We are so proud to report that millions in Resilience fundraising has already come in. Those donations have been put to work funding projects including temporary housing, offsetting the cost of permits to rebuild, hiring a city planner who specializes in disaster recovery, funding child trauma reduction efforts, providing bus passes for students, and more. However, it is true that more than half of the pledges have not yet been received. It is important to note that the beer was in market until April 30, so many breweries and retailers have just recently seen those funds come in. Breweries of all sizes stepped forward in this Herculean effort and we are hearing from more of them each day. We deeply understand the challenges of operating a brewery and are actively working with our friends to establish realistic timelines for donations. We are however hopeful that those funds will be received as soon as possible so we can continue funding this essential work. We remain eternally grateful to our suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, and our incredible brewing community who have made Resilience possible.
Sure, the current beer landscape is one that can create financial challenges for some, given how much competition is out there but that’s no excuse to flake out on paying what is owed to help this effort. If breweries aren’t waiting for the funds, as Grossman suggested in the statement, and simply thought it would be easy to fly under the radar here, that’s no good either. Thousands of people are still displaced and it’s time these breweries sent checks and were held accountable for their commitment.