(New Jersey) – Members of the New Jersey craft beer community have united to create a non-profit organization designed to help hospitality workers affected by COVID-19 in the immediate, and to help provide support to the growth of the craft brewing industry in the state in the future. Spearheaded by Rob Callaghan of Tuckahoe Brewing Company, Brewery Strong will accept and disburse donations for unemployed or underemployed servers throughout the state for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.
“I have been kicking around the idea since the pandemic began, thinking about ways we as a community could come together and help each other,” said Callaghan, Brewery Strong President. “Brewery Strong started out as a hashtag I used in a South Jersey Beer Scene video call and it has grown from there. Very quickly we were able to put together a strong team representing different aspects of the community to help push the idea along.”
Brewery Strong Vice President and South Jersey Beer Scene co-founder John Couchoud was on that call and thought the idea was a great one, so he immediately got to work with Callaghan to develop the idea.
“The craft brewing community in our state is tight knit and incredibly supportive of each other,” Couchoud said. “This sort of grassroots effort is the type of thing we see every day. This has really ramped up during the quarantine with breweries trading materials, ideas, and other resources back and forth to help each other stay afloat. This is a natural extension of those activities.”
Callaghan immediately went to work with visual artist Mike Bell to create a logo that reflected his vision for what the logo should look like. Both Mike Bell and Frank Santoro, who helped with digital support, donated their time to the effort. Together they have created a graphic that will be available on t-shirts and other paraphernalia to be sold directly by Brewery Strong or adapted so that individual breweries can sell them through their own merchandising outlets.
Other board members include Matthew Czigler, owner of Czig Meister Brewing Company in Hackettstown, Cindy DeRama, owner of Twin Elephant Brewing Company in Chatham, and Alexis Degan of the New Jersey Brewers Association.
“Our employees work so hard for us, and every brewery is trying their best to keep them employed to some degree, but we know that for many that’s not enough right now,” Czigler explained. “Having the ability to sell t-shirts and funnel other charitable efforts to a single focused organization will help us help them tremendously.”
“Brewery Strong also helps us be good partners with our fellow hospitality workers,” pointed out DeRama, who highlighted that the funds will not be limited to brewery staff, but also available to bar and restaurant employees. “We have such close working relationships with the bars and restaurants that we supply our beer to, we rely on them as much as we rely on our customers. Helping out their staff is something that’s important to us as well.”
While there are other outlets for charitable giving at this time, Degan is confident that Brewery Strong will resonate within the community well beyond the current crisis.
“We encourage people to give their money where they are most comfortable doing so, because often folks already have a great relationship with the organization they’re supporting,” Degan said. “At the same time, Brewery Strong is something that really resonates. In the short term we’ll be helping the industry sustain itself. In the future, we’re hoping to help it grow.”
Trustee members include Augie Carton of Carton Brewing, Krystle Lockman of Axe and Arrow Brewing, and Mike Kivowitz of New Jersey Craft Beer. Each member of the executive board and committee brings their perspective, resources, and support to the organization.
A portion of funds collected will be allocated towards a scholarship fund the organization intends to use for brewery education initiatives, however the bulk of the money is to be used for direct financial aid to out of work and underemployed hospitality workers in the state.