When Budweiser aired what many interpreted as a left-leaning Super Bowl ad that told the story of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch’s immigration from Germany, it upended the notion that Big Beer and politics don’t mix. But long before that moment in early February, the craft beer industry, with its often urgent ties to community ethos, had been responding to the political climate with a surge in activism and philanthropy.
Since then, well-established and up-and-coming independent breweries across the country have been creating recipes for new beers that directly confront the Trump administration and its policies, both in branding and in donations to local chapters of national advocacy organizations, like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As Jeremy Cowan, founder and owner of Shmaltz Brewing Company, explains, this sort of action is “crucial for making a vibrant industry and a vibrant community.”
The Brewery: Shmaltz Brewing Company | Clifton Park, NY
The Beer: She’brew Double IPA
The Cause: Planned Parenthood and the Pink Boots Society
The Why: “It sounded like a perfect excuse to put an age-old pun into action,” jokes Cowan. The original She’brew Triple IPA—a riff on the company’s popular line of He’brew beers—was first crafted two years ago, when Cowan was approached by a female staffer about participating in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day. With this year marking the 100th anniversary of New York State’s suffragette movement—never mind rallies nationwide in support of women’s reproductive and civil rights—the timing was right for a re-release. The slightly less alcoholic She’brew Double IPA will be available in April, at which point a portion of proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood and the Pink Boots Society, a scholarship fund for women looking to advance in the beer business. “There are a lot of talented, wildly successful women who’ve made an impact on the industry,” says Cowan, “so what a great opportunity to highlight that and bring more awareness.”
The Brewery: Off Color Brewing | Chicago, IL
The Beer: Class War
The Cause: ACLU
The Why: “People’s constitutional rights are being infringed on by the current administration, and the ACLU is a worthy, non-partisan ally in helping those people,” says Off Color co-founder Dave Bleitner, who views his efforts as more humanitarian than political. He created Class War—a smoked, Gotlandsdricka-style beer, accentuated with pear and honey—in response to President Trump’s rash of executive orders threatening the livelihood and residential status of foreign-born Americans and travelers. (As Off Color’s website succinctly states, Class War represents “brewing for the proletariat.”) Not only did the brewery arrange for $1 from every Class War bottle sold to be donated to the ACLU, Off Color co-founder, John Laffler, personally donated as well, contributing a dollar for every beer he drank over one five-week stretch.
The Brewery: 5 Rabbit Cervecería | Bedford, IL
The Beer: Chinga Tu Pelo
The Cause: Latino Cultural Center of Chicago
The Why: Back in 2015, the country’s first Latin-American owned and operated craft brewery, 5 Rabbit, struck a deal to brew a blonde ale beer, christened “Trump Golden Ale,” to be offered on tap at one of the Chicago Trump Tower hotel bars. But soon, as the candidate broadly identified Mexicans as criminals and rapists, owner Andrés Araya pulled all remaining kegs from the bar, renamed it Chinga Tu Pelo—literally, “Fuck Your Hair”— and asked peer restaurants and bars to sell the rest. He then promptly donated all proceeds to the Latino Cultural Center. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean we need to do business with people who have that point of view,” Arayas told the Chicago Tribune at the time. More than a year later, Chinga Tu Pelo is still available for sale in cans.
The Brewery: Fieldwork Brewing Co. | Berkeley, CA
The Beer: March On
The Cause: Planned Parenthood
The Why: After the owner of Sacramento brewery 12 Rounds notoriously lashed out on social media against January’s Women’s March, condemning participants as “disgusting,” Fieldwork owner and co-founder Barry Braden sprung to action. “Beer culture doesn’t deserve a pass on being a good citizen,” he says. “We should be aware of what’s going on around us.” The brewery has contributed north of $5,000 to Planned Parenthood via sales of March On—a strong, hoppy ale, which Braden confirms was conceived with an emphasis on “strong” as a metaphor for female empowerment. “We just wanted to do something that showed our support, not only to our employees, but all the women that we know in the craft beer industry,” he says.
The Breweries: Lady Justice Brewing Company, Black Sky Brewery, Brewability Lab, Goldspot Brewing and 3 Freaks Brewery | Denver, CO
The Beer: Makin Noise: A Pussy Riot Beer
The Cause: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, One Colorado, Sierra Club Foundation, ProgressNow Colorado
The Why: Betsy Lay, co-founder and head brewer of Lady Justice, confirms that Makin Noise—a joint effort between women from five Denver breweries—was never intended to be specifically anti-Trump. Rather, the idea was to express solidarity with a wide range of minority and marginalized groups, hence each brewery donating to a unique cause in support of everything from LGBT rights to immigrant protections. The resulting project, dubbed “A Pussy Riot Beer,” was named for the all-female Russian punk group. They’ve collectively raised thousands of dollars, and Lay says there will be further collaborative efforts inspired by Makin Noise’s success.