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Fox BYO

Brews That Raise Bucks...For Charity

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 (Abita/50 Back)

Charitable giving is down by virtually any measure. In a tough economy, people have to make choices, and that usually includes cutting back on donations to the causes they normally support. Economic downturn or no, however, Americans love a good deal. So if they see an opportunity to donate to a worthy charity while getting their drink on, they'll do it in a heartbeat. Luckily, there are breweries tapping in to our impulse to open a bottle and do some good in the process.

50 Back is one of the enterprising breweries intent on shining a little light on the world through the strategic application of beer. Developed by Massachusetts-residents Kimberly Rogers and Paige Haley, 50 Back devotes half of all profits to a number of veterans' and military-focused charities including the USO, Homes for our Troops, America's VetDogs, and several others.

“We wanted to give back to our troops,” said Rogers. “My father was an army vet and police officer, and he showed me how important service was. Plus, he taught me a little about homebrewing.”

While Rogers was the one with brewing experience, Haley was the one who originally came up with the idea they should make beer to raise funds for charity.

“We wanted people to donate more than once,” offered Haley. “So I thought, 'who doesn't like beer?' It's something people buy and enjoy repeatedly.”

They thought they were on to something, so they asked at area bars if people would buy a beer that donated half its profits to veterans. The answer was a resounding yes, though it'd have to be a tasty brew for them to buy it a second time.

“We knew it'd have to be good,” Rogers said while laughing.

So, after tinkering with the recipe, Rogers and Haley hit upon a winning formula. Appropriately, it's an easy-drinking, traditional American lager with a touch more hops than the norm. It's proving to be incredibly popular in the limited distribution area it already has. Even better, 50 Back has received intense interest from across the country, meaning more donations for military causes in need.

“We had planned for a gradual expansion,” Haley offered. “But I think we're ok with this.”

Abita Beer, located just 30 miles north of New Orleans, is another brewer that gives back to the community. Founded in 1986, the brewery has donated to regional charities and projects from day one. But when Hurricane Katrina hit, and the brewery was undamaged, the company developed Restoration Pale Ale, rasing over $550,000 over a two-year period through beer and merchandise sales.

In the aftermath of the BP oil spill, Abita released Save Our Shore: A Charitable Pilsner. Donating 75 cents per bottle sold, it's a big beer, fitting for the huge disaster in the Gulf - an unfiltered Weizen Pils with a nicely sweet, malty overtone and a well-balanced hoppy bitterness. More importantly, in less than two weeks since its July 16 release Save our Shore has raised $85,000 from beer and merchandise sales.

“It just seemed right to make a big brew for such a big cause,” said David Blossman, President of Abita Brewing Company. “We're hoping it sells very well and raises a lot of money for the SOS foundation.”

These are just two of the craft beer brewers continuing a long tradition of brewers to support worthy causes. There are many more to fit any cause, and flavor dear to your heart. Fireman's Brew, made in L.A. County by two firefighters, donates a portion of its profits to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Finnegan's Irish Amber, from Minnesota, goes even further and donates 100 percent of its profits to charitable causes.

Between this movement and the new season of “Mad Men,” it's enough to make a guy feel good about dinking again.