During an Everyday Jaunt to the grocery store these days, the beer isle has become a behemoth – space for the domestics, 22oz craft bottles & sixers, tall-boys, ciders, etc. And when you buy these beers, as much as we might try, it’s often hard to make heads or tails out of this sea of specialty beverages.
Who brews this beer? Where is it brewed and how do they serve their community? And thus we wonder… where are my dollars going and how will they be paid back into the community?
A few weeks back we were lucky enough to participate in the only known vintage beer auction whose proceeds do exactly that – benefit foster, at-risk and homeless youth in Portland, Oregon. This is the story of how Brews for New Avenues (BFNA) came to be: utilizing a passionate community of beer folks who know that where your beer money goes can matter.
It All Started Over 5 Years Ago when New Avenues for Youth decided they needed a way to build “a new pipeline for community leadership.” They’re a Portland based non-profit who’s focused on “working toward a community where all youth have a safe place to call home and the support they need to thrive.”
The driving force behind the BFNA event itself is the Ambassador Board, a way to enable the charity to elicit the assistance of professionals dedicated to working in the community, with Brews for New A
venues being their signature fundraising event. Their mission is to promote advocacy, awareness building, direct service and fundraising, all while still being employed full-time with other companies.
But how were they to raise funds for the organization and engage the craft beer community? Their first concept, a pub crawl throughout the Pearl District, just didn’t work out. Yet they were also already one of 5 charities to benefit from the local Classic Wines Auction which has raised over $40 Million for charity since 1982, but wanted to create their own special gathering.
The notion of a high-end, but not quite black-tie affair for discerning beer aficionados was born when local attorney and Ambassador James Bruce married the two ideas to get the ball rolling. Along with fellow Ambassador Jeremy Herrig, the biggest beer brain behind the operation and master bottle collector, Brews for New Avenues was created. With the co-chairs are rounded out by Ambassador Board member and engineer Andy LoPiccolo in 2014 and professor and International Ambassador Don Lowman in 2012, it’s clear this varied crew was built for success.
The Event, the newest destination festival for craft beer lovers, has seen quite an evolution over the past five years. Initially working in tandem with Rogue’s Jack Joyce and his Rogue Nation Foundation, the first event was held October 13th, 2012 just outside the Green Dragon pub in a tent, raising $17,000 and over 400 in attendance. For the past three years it’s been held in the beautiful Leftbank Annex, across from the Moda Center, allowing for over 700+ to be in attendance and indoors, with plenty of space to spare.
Each year they feature special kegs for VIP ticket holders (150 tickets, $70 each) from Cantillon to de Garde. VIP access also enables you to participate in the entirety of the day’s events, including a rare beer silent auction, unlimited pours, locally crafted hors d’oeuvres, plus a t-shirt and a glass.
General admission at $10 gains one access to over 40 featured breweries, a silent and live auction, $10 picks from the wonderfully mysterious “Wall of Beer” (1,400 artisan bottles valued at over $10), a souvenir glass and pours of the two de Garde Brewing and Altbrau collaboration beers made for the event – both available in bottles as well. They’ve sold over 500 bottles of their Avenue 1 and 2 collaboration, with over $20,000 going to New Avenues for Youth.
This year, via their international Ambassador Don Lowman, they received four, one-of-a-kind, 3 Liter bottles of Fou’ Foune from Cantillon, garnering nearly $10,000 total at auction. The highest bid of the night went for one bottle of Cantillon Symbiose, which was auctioned off for $3,400. In total, from all the bottle sales, tickets, auctions and donations, Brews for New Avenues has raised almost $160,000, far more than doubling the $58,000 raised in 2015. In all, the event has now raised over $300,000 in 5 years.
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the private collectors, breweries, bidders, and hundreds of people who attend Brews for New Avenues. To have this year’s event raise more than twice the amount of last year’s is evidence that the beer community is passionate not only about craft beer but also about doing good,” says Sean Suib, Executive Director at New Avenues for Youth. “With their continued support, we look forward to being able to help even more youth overcome their barriers and realize their potential.”
For me, personally, it was definitely the best event I’ve been to in Portland and arguably the coolest I’ve ever been to. It doesn’t have that festival feel, but feels more like a small community celebration. And as a local writer, being able to bump into brewers, other writers and friends we tend to share bottles with was wonderful. Yet to know it was all to help the mission of New Avenues was an even greater joy.
Once the Dust had Settled, I was able to catch up with Jessica Elkan, New Avenues Director of Development & Communications. She espoused the event’s desire to be simultaneously “exclusive, yet awareness building” for Portland’s beer community. “The overall concept,” says Elkan, “is to bring the craft community into charity assistance.”
One of the group’s mantras has always been “jump and the net will appear.” Well, it looks like New Avenues for Youth has created a net for themselves in Portland, constructed with the aid of Portland’s beer aficionados and made to catch the at-risk youth it serves. Their success is inspiration for us all to jump, without fear of failing.