Breweries across the U.S. are brewing the same beer in honor of a Denver brewer who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
That’s the notice in a nutshell that came onto my computer on April 28. I emailed Tristan Schmid
at Brewers of Indiana Guild
. Tristan connected me with Andy Sparhawk
, Craft Beer Program Coordinator at the Denver-based Brewers Association
. What I learned is that Dr. Paul Ogg
, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines and brewer at Declaration Brewing Company
in Denver, was diagnosed with peripheral T-cell lymphoma about a year ago. Mike Blandford
, the president of Declaration stepped forward to work with Sparhawk to launch a mass collaboration in honor of Ogg and his family. Within days of a call-out to brewers associations nationwide, about 105 breweries in all 50 states and DC came on board. At this point Ogg was asked to create the recipe of his choice, yet allowing the participating breweries “to tweak the recipe and make it their own.”
In a news release, Mike Blandford wrote, “By uniting as many craft brewers… as quickly as we have in this effort, is a clear and decisive message to the big guys: we are here and we are a force. That is why we call it #BiggestSmallBeerEver
and are releasing it all together during American Craft Beer Week, May 16-22
…as a toast to Ogg from every brewery involved during his upcoming surgery.”
Indiana is represented by Andy Walton
, owner/brewer of Crooked Ewe Brewery & Ale House
in South Bend and Amy Gentry
, Owner/Brewer of Hunter’s Brewing LLC
Here are their email responses to the questions I sent:
What inspired you to join this national initiative?
“I saw Andy's [Sparhawk] post on the Brewers Association forum and thought it sounded like a neat idea.
I found out about #BiggestSmallBeerEver through the Pink Boots Society
, and was inspired by how many women across the country were excited to participate in this national collaboration. I’ve been a participant in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day
for the last three years, and there is something really special about working with other brewers to brew collaboratively for a cause.
How will you work with the recipe—tweak it?
I didn't change [the recipe] much. I nix'd the peat smoked malt and went with a higher percentage of wood smoked malt, and used slightly different yeast.
I didn’t make any major adjustments to the recipe. I changed a couple malts to accommodate what we had available and used a different hop variety for a little character. My personal opinion is that since there was thought and care put into the choice of and reason for using this recipe, it was respectful to keep true to the original intent of the beer.
How will you bring your community and patrons into the big picture?
Social media and word-of-mouth.
We’ll promote it as part of American Craft Beer Week. There has been some discussion of having a national release date for it during ACBW, which I think would be a great idea. I am a fan of the “replicale” type project - I think it’s an excellent opportunity for consumers to try different brewer interpretations of the same recipe as it can highlight uniqueness as well as similarity.
How is being part of this initiative a natural progression of what you do as a craft brewer/owner?
I look for inspiration everywhere, and enjoy a good story. I am forever trying new things and ultimately, just trying to have fun. Participating in this seemed like a no-brainer.
This is a hard question! I think as an owner/brewer, choosing to participate is a way to be involved with the national brewing community and to show our support for craft beer initiatives. Local, possibly even hyper-local, has become an intense focus in the last couple of years and I think it’s very important to remember that no matter whether a brewery is small or large, we’re all part of a national conversation that takes place every time someone sips a beer.
“I think the angle is exactly right,” emailed Andy Sparhawk from Brewers Association, after I shared responses. “All of these brewers compete for the same shelf space, the same tap handle and the same consumers. With growth there will be growing pains, but craft brewers, at their core, still reflect what we have come to love about the craft beer community; brewers helping brewers, sharing ideas and beers. It’s rare to see other industries as close knit and sharing as small and independent craft brewers.
“Tristan can attest to how quickly this all came together, pretty much two weeks to inspire at least one brewer in all 50 states, plus DC to agree to brew this beer. I was told that the feat was next to impossible. So how did we pull it off? I just asked, and brewers said yes. Most [brewers] probably didn’t have time or space to take on another beer, but the vast majority of them said, 'No problem, Andy. We’ll make it work.'"
Whether or not we make the pilgrimage to toast with Paul Ogg’s recipe replicated at the Crooked Ewe, 1047 Lincoln Way East, South Bend 46601 [574-217-0881; crookedewe.com
] or at Hunter’s Brewing Company, 1535 S. Calumet Rd., Chesterton 46304 [219-728-6729; huntersbrewing.com
], the plan is to raise a brew at hand as a toast for Paul Ogg’s recovery. Watch NUVO for specifics.
Note should be made that Hoosier craft brewers have a precedent with reaching out to assist when illness affects one of our own. May 2014, when an injury from a fall placed Chris Gerard
in the hospital for an extended stay, brewers state-wide stepped in to brew at Bare Hands
so the brewery could stay open and Chris and his family could have income—and some help to cover medical expenses. Chris recovered and has been giving back in various ways—learn about the Aug. 27, 2016 Double Thai.P.A. Day Festival
More about Paul Ogg and Declaration Brewing Company at: www.declarationbrewing.com/