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Benevolent Brewers

Boatyard Brewing Co. co-owners Dan Gilligan, left, and Brian Steele brew up special ales for good causes.
Boatyard Brewing Co. makes good beer for good causes

For beer lovers, the act of imbibing a delicious, cold brew is heavenly enough — but what if drinking beer supported local nonprofits at the same time?

That’s the idea behind Boatyard Brewing Co.’s creation and distribution of two special brews, the sales of which help local nonprofits. The brews are one way that Boatyard’s owners are fulfilling a mission to connect to the local community through outreach work.

“One of the things that Dan (Gilligan) and I committed to at the beginning was we wanted to be charitable,” says Boatyard co-owner Brian Steele.

The Scotch ale Gimme Shelter, as reported in a recent issue of Encore, was specially created by Boatyard for Community Homeworks, a Kalamazoo-based nonprofit committed that helps struggling homeowners maintain their homes.

But Boatyard also makes another special brew, EZ Ale, to benefit the Eric Zapata Foundation, a charity fund created in honor of the Kalamazoo Public Safety officer who died in 2012 after suffering a gunshot wound in the line of duty.

EZ Ale is sold at fundraisers for the Eric Zapata Memorial Foundation; Boatyard then distributes it locally until it sells out.

The idea for creating the two special brews came after the Boatyard owners had hosted smaller-scale events to raise money for Crayons4Kids and for the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.

“After those events, we were asked in 2013 if we would make a beer to help spread the word about the Eric Zapata Memorial Foundation,” Steele says. “On April 18, 2013, we launched the EZ Ale at the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange and donated the first 10 barrels of those sales to the foundation.”

The Eric Zapata Memorial Foundation uses the brewery as a place to host events, like a function last autumn that raised money for scholarships and police training.

“We produced another round of the EZ Ale for the event, except we made it an amber that time, had a big pig barbecue here, and they raised $7,000 that evening for their cause,” Steele says. “We’re gearing up the exact same thing to do on April 18 of this year at the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange to honor the fifth anniversary of Eric Zapata’s death.”

Boatyard Brewing launched the other brew, Gimme Shelter, in October at a Community Homeworks fundraising event called Furnace Fest. The event raised about $6,000 that Community Homeworks used to buy new furnaces for struggling homeowners who couldn’t afford replacements for out-of-date or broken ones.

Steele and Gilligan donated the brewery space for the event, provided staff and donated 20 percent of the sales to the organization.

“We basically told Kristina at Community Homeworks that we were here for her — live auction, event at the brewery, designing a new beer — we were going to do whatever we could to support the organization,” says Steele. “Their goal was to raise awareness because very few people knew who they were. We had a large amount of people come through. We used social media, and I think it worked.”

Steele says he and Gilligan are looking forward to hosting Furnace Fest again and are planning to distribute the beer locally sometime this year, with a portion of the profits going to Community Homeworks.

The two are also looking to provide ongoing charitable support to two more local community organizations. “A lot of the local breweries do a lot for charity,” Steele says. “I think it’s just the nature of a brewer — we all want to find causes and want to help however we can.”

Encore Magazine

Encore Magazine is Southwest Michigan’s Magazine, bringing readers intriguing images and stories of the good things, good works and great people of our corner of the mitten. Published 12 times a year, Encore in its fifth decade of serving Southwest Michigan, carrying on a historic tradition of being the premier lifestyle publication of the greater Kalamazoo area.

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