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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Prost to Philanthropy

Last week I spent a post bashing the cunning of the Molson Coors corporation, who use a philanthropic veil to hawk product. Last week I also received an email from Pelican Brewery mentioning that they had officially made their donation of proceeds from the Brewers Games to two local charities, Nestucca’s Booster Club and Caring Cabin. It reminded me that while business is innately amoral--the goal is to make money, not benefit a particular cause--that doesn't mean it has to be immoral. In the case of our local breweries, they are far from it.

A few weeks back, the Oregon chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society had one of their two main fundraisers, a two-day bike event in Stayton. (Sally, my wife, is the director of finance there.) Full Sail was a sponsor of the event, and so far as I know, they didn't even mention this fact publicly. Of course, that's not unusual--companies regularly support philanthropic endeavors. (I'm sure Molson Coors has an entire department devoted to this.) But here's what was unusual. Sally was helping out at registration and happened to notice Jamie Emmerson, Full Sail's brewmaster, in line. He was there to bike the event. Full Sail had done their official part, and there was no need for Jamie to go above and beyond--except that real philanthropy is always about going above and beyond.

I mentioned an anecdote from the Brewers Games about how invested Pelican is in the philanthropic side of things. The Games are fun, but they might not be worth the hassle if there wasn't a greater good. Oregon breweries are a part of the community, and they really give back to the community. I could go on and on, but you get the point. I don't mention it as often as I should, but this is one of the finest things about our local brewing industry. Cheers to all of you.

Update. This just in from Laurelwood brewer Chad Kennedy, who rightly sensed that this was a moment to get a little ink:
"We're very excited about our next bottled beer- Prevale IPA- to be released in 22 oz bottles on September 1st throughout Oregon and Western Washington. We're excited not only because our brewers have created a great Northwest-style IPA, but also because the proceeds from each bottle sold will go towards a great cause.

"In collaboration with The Oregon Team in Training chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society our brewers created a benefit beer. We asked anyone with some inspiration and creativity to name the beer and after hundreds of entries Prevale was chosen as the winning name. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for cancer research."


  1. Any regional/local brewery worth their salt should be involved in local charities. It should be one of their primary marketing vehicles. Especially here in the PNW there seems to be much more "community" involvement and the people here are fiercely local. Also, brewers and owners should make appearances at these events when possible as you noted, because they are recognized on sight unlike larger faceless breweries. It just makes good business sense.

    I do think the "greater good" involves cheaper beer from local breweries. Why should the less economically fortunate have to do without good beer? (Utilitarianism is great when you have an agenda)

  2. Ralph, I think you miss my point--which is essentially the reverse of the "good business" argument. The motivation isn't profiting the business. I would be absolutely stunned if anyone but Sally recognized Jamie Emmerson at the MS Bike event. (These guys may be rock stars to us, but I think they manage to walk the streets relatively unmolested.) They do it because it means something, not because it's good business.

  3. Hmm.

    Since we don't know the motivations we are only left to guess. I don't see how placing your logo on the list of sponsors in a act altruism. On the other hand writing a big check and refusing to list your organization as a sponsor is a bit more inline with the selfless act your are suggesting.

    I don't doubt that it does mean something to the company to be involved in these events. I'm just not sure I would chalk it up to saint status.

    Either way, I'm thankful for their donations to a good cause.

  4. Ralph,

    I'm struggling to see where Jeff suggests these breweries are saints.

  5. So if a large corporation like Molson Coors were to give proceeds to charity, and have their employees including higher ups participate in raising money would you chalk it up as some disingenuous add scheme? Or as some self less act by the corporation?

    Just wondering since many people are all to willing to boo a corporation and chear on a small business when they're both doing the same thing.

  6. I think I'm doing a bad job communicating here. It's not a big/little issue. If Coors were to be generous with their time and money and involve themselves in local communities (as many corporations do), I'd be all for it. Many small businesses don't do that, either.

    Coors, however, appears not to be particularly generous, and worse, they use the mask of philanthropy to OVERTLY hawk their own beer. (A different metric than Ralph's "good for business" sense of things.)

    Few of us reach sainthood, though based on their body of work, I'm willing to consider John Harris, Alan Sprints, and Craig Nicholls. Oh wait, that's a different metric, too....

  7. This is funny.... Who's not seeing the whole picture?

    Brewers are NOT Rock Stars, nor Saints! Some brew because it's a job and/or brew for artistic expression. Either way, it's a job that pays their bills, no matter what their efforts or artisian thoughts. It's not a high paying job like a ROCK STAR and rarely does it give anyone international fame from the masses. Of course, there is something in common! Most of there fans are intoxicated on something!

    It's beer brewing, not Brain Surgery or curing Cancer!

    In regard to this Charity Stuff.... I think it's both business and personal interest. You'd have to be blind or stupid to think these guys are saints... ;-} I'm sure some brewers and BREWERY owners have personal charities or causes that interest them, but it's also good PR and makes for appeal for those who think they're local brewery is about humanitarian causes. Is it all a ruse? Maybe or maybe not!

    Obviously, some people are easily pleased either way.

    The Wort Crew doesn't support any particular causes, nor do we feel the "CAUSE" would influence which beer we drink. Just like whether the brewery advertises with Big Busted Women or Hunky Men... PR and Advertising always falls into play, The average Joe is very easily mentally stimulated and persuaded. Just a fact!

  8. Guessing about a corporation's, big or small, motivation around charity is a tough deal. Sometimes, it's just one person's motivation, with the right credentials and political strength, to say, "Hey, let's do this." Other times, it springs from the organization's philosophy or position and carries only the faintest of individual guidance or interest. Regardless, my experience has been that smaller companies, closer to their communities, are the ones who open their purses most readily.