Responding to October’s wildfires, dozens of Napa and Sonoma craft brewers—led by Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company—have banded together to raise money for fire relief efforts.
"During the fire, our friends at other breweries kept reaching out to us to ask how they could help,” says Natalie Cilurzo. “We felt like we needed to help our community, and we needed to do it fast.”
The couple decided to harness the fundraising potential of their Sonoma Pride label, a beer they brew a few times each year.
"We started asking everybody, ‘Do you want to brew your own Sonoma Pride?’ We decided to mobilize the brand,” she explains.
Within three weeks, 57 breweries had signed license agreements to make their own signature beer under the Sonoma Pride label and donate the proceeds to fire relief. “We told them to brew whatever kind of beer they could get done fast. More than 100 beer industry members donated ingredients, brewed beer, or money,” Cilurzo says.
Rich Norgrove, owner of Bear Republic Brewery in Healdsburg and Rohnert Park, was the first to sign up, brewing a hoppy blonde ale under the Sonoma Pride label. The brewery is also donating 50 cents for every case of Bear Republic beer sold online, in stores, or at the brewery. The company’s goal is to raise $50,000 in fire relief funds.
Norgrove also supplied ingredients and manpower to Windsor’s St. Florian’s Brewery, run by brewmaster and fire department captain Aron Levin. Levin spent nine days on the fire lines, then returned to Windsor to brew his charity beer, a pale ale called Mutual Aid. Named for the patron saint of firefighters, St. Florian’s has raised nearly $10,000 for fire relief so far.
Fieldwork Brewing Company—with taprooms in Napa, Berkeley, Sacramento, Monterey, and San Mateo—brewed 5,000 cans of their own Sonoma Pride, an IPA that sold out in two days. Co-owner Barry Braden said the brewery staff felt compelled to help out after the fires. “We needed to do something, and the folks at Russian River Brewing Company provided this opportunity. The beer community has galvanized around this tragedy.” The beer sale brought in more than $25,000 in fire relief funds.
Local breweries are finding other ways to pitch in: Santa Rosa’s Cooperage Brewery is selling raffle tickets for fire relief until Dec. 1. Prizes include tickets for North Bay Brewery Tours, a distillery tasting package, gift cards, and a beer cellar featuring 65 handcrafted beers from Sonoma County.
You can support Wine Country breweries by purchasing their beer at bars, restaurants, and stores in your community. You can also make a donation to wildfire relief at the Sonoma Pride website or visit North Bay Fire Donations to find products to buy and events to attend to support fire relief efforts.