When Rob Callaghan of Tuckahoe Brewing Co. came up with the idea to start a nonprofit to help support people within the New Jersey brewing industry, it was just an idea he hoped would grow and work toward the goals set for the organization. The mission was simple. Brewery Strong is a nonprofit organization designed to help hospitality workers affected by COVID-19 now and to help provide support to the growth of the craft brewing industry in the state in the future.
Brewery Strong has raised $27,500 in one month. The donations have come from breweries, online merchandise sales along and personal donations to the Brewery Strong website. Support continues to come in with pledges made from additional breweries as they release and sell their All Together beer. This is beer that has been specifically brewed with the nonprofit in mind. The generosity has overwhelmed Callaghan, whose passion for beer and craft breweries has helped define his career as one of the faces of the ever-expanding New Jersey brewing industry.
“It has been a whirlwind since we started on our mission,” Callaghan said. “I will not be able to relax until we have reached the goals we have set out to accomplish.”
Brewery Strong board member John Couchound, co-founder of South Jersey Beer Scene, explains why he joined the group. “Rob and I are longtime friends, and when he puts his mind to something there is no stopping him. He was talking about this on South Jersey Beer Scene Live and the next day he was already working on making this a reality.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I believe in this community and it is hard to see many of my colleagues and friends out of work. I wanted to help in any way that I could. Brewery Strong is that vehicle.”
The response from the brewing community has been strong. Many breweries stepped up by sending portions of their profits from the worldwide collaboration brew “All Together.” The initiative to brew the beer was started by Other Half Brewing of New York.
The Brewery Strong board of directors approved 47 applicants this past week and sent out checks to the first round of applicants totaling $12,000. Callaghan commented to fellow board member Alexis Degan of the New Jersey Brewers Association how great it felt to sign the checks going to others in need, when most of his check writing up this point has been to pay bills.
Like so many, Degan looks forward to a return to a semblance of normalcy when tasting rooms at New Jersey breweries will once again offer on-location tastings. She hopes to visit as many breweries as she can manage that first week, a challenge that Degan hopes many fans of craft beer flights and tastings undertakes.
The reaction Brewery Strong has received so far from people who received grants has been joy and gratitude. The personal thank you notes and calls of appreciation coming in from the applicants have been a source of energy for the board members.
Board member Matthew Czigler, owner of Czig Meister Brewing Co. in Hackettstown, said the feeling is hard to describe. “The craft beer industry is like no other industry out there. I can ask my neighboring breweries to lend a bag of grain or box of hops if I am short one day and know that they are as concerned about my batch as I am. I feel I can truly collaborate with another brewery on a beer and know that they care as much about the recipe, the label, the branding exposure I get from the collaboration as though the beer was their own”.
Clearly this spirit of collaboration or “collab” as it is commonly referred to in the brewing industry, does not stop at the brewery doors.
Czigler said, “It extends to those other industries and individuals that see what craft beer has to offer and want to help it, to be a part of that and to integrate those ideals into our industry and include the bars, the restaurants, the liquor stores, the distributors that help our products see the light of day.”
Czilgler puts the effort in perspective, “To help individuals in our industry, means everything to me. I am in a spot to help now, but I know if the tables were turned they would be there to help me that feeling is very hard to put in words.”
In addition to the 47 applications, at last count Rob Callaghan said they have received over 100 applications for assistance. The board will come together over the next two weeks to continue the good work of Brewery Strong. For more information on the Brewery Strong grants and the nonprofit or to get involved you can follow the group on social media.