Retirement community brewers take on Alzheimer’s

Three weeks ago, Joe Reeves peered into the small batch kettle at Worthy Brewing Company’s east Bend production facility and watched 155 gallons of the Aspen Ridge Retirement Community’s Machine Gun Maggie Imperial IPA boil at a steady clip.

“The whole turnaround on this system is really fast,” said Reeves, who was blown away by the speed and efficiency of Worthy’s system, especially when compared to the system Aspen Ridge’s brew crew uses to make a 10 gallon batch of beer.

Earlier this fall, Aspen Ridge, Worthy and the Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization teamed up to make 300 gallons of Machine Gun Maggie, a potent, hoppy beer (11 percent ABV, 100+ IBUs) that won “Best in Show” at the Deschutes County Fair and several other awards this summer.

They’ll be selling the beer in pints and bottles at Worthy and four other Bend establishments — Brother Jon’s Ale House, Brother Jon’s Public House, Playtpus Pub and Rat Hole Brewing — on Tuesday to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“What better way to raise money in Bend?” asked Aspen Ridge spokeswoman Shelbie Deuser, who said the facility’s brew crew, staff and parent company, Frontier Management, saw the collaboration as the perfect way to thank the Alzheimer’s Association for all of its help.

The beer

In search of an activity that didn’t fit the traditional retirement community
vibe, Aspen Ridge’s managers reached out to the Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization two years ago about setting up a homebrewing demonstration at their Purcell Drive facility. The idea took off and, led by Reeves and a handful of other residents, the Aspen Ridge Brew Crew now makes enough beer to fill 18 six packs every couple of months.

The program has been copied by at least one other retirement community since then. It has also won enough ribbons — including the fair’s “Best in Show” and two awards from the Oregon State Fair — to fill a wall in a room that serves as the retirement community’s unofficial brewpub.

COHO Vice President Tim Koester, who helped Aspen Ridge start brewing and teaches Central Oregon Community College’s homebrewing courses, said the Worthy collaboration came about because “Aspen Ridge wanted to give back to the Alzheimer’s Association” and thought selling its beer would be a good way to do it.

But that proved to be easier said than done, Koester said, because Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulations bar homebrewers from selling their beer. So a pro-am
collaboration — professional brewers using their equipment to make
an amateur brewer’s recipe — seemed like the best way to get it done, he said.
Worthy jumped at the opportunity.

“When we met with (Aspen Ridge and COHO) and found out what they wanted to do,” Worthy CEO Chris Hodge said, “we were excited to be a part of it.”

The cause

Hodge said this project marks the third time Worthy has partnered with a nonprofit organization to raise money by making beer. Over the past two years, the brewery made a Witbier called Gary’s No Quit Wit to raise money for cancer survivor Gary Bonacker, the Tour Des Chutes cycling event and its support programs for cancer survivors and their
families. It also made an American amber/red lager called Local 36 Red Lager to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 36 in Portland and to help union members who have mesothelioma because they worked with asbestos.

Worthy isn’t the only local brewery that has teamed up with a nonprofit organization for this type of a collaborative project. In the past, Silver Moon Brewing has made custom labels for bottles of its most popular beers — Get Sum Pale Ale, Hob Nob IPA and Voodoo Dog India Session Red — for groups like Kids in the Game, the Wildland Firefighters Association and the Deschutes County Search and Rescue Association.

Silver Moon owner James Watts said these groups can then turn around and sell the custom-labeled beers for $10 to $20 apiece — two or three times their normal retail price — at fundraisers and special events that his brewpub is more than willing to host.

“This is Bend’s version of a bake sale,” Watts said Friday morning. “It’s about embracing the cause (and) the charity and giving them a novel platform to raise some funds.”

Watts said he also plans to buy a small batch setup like Worthy’s as part of an upcoming expansion of his brewpub and production facility. That would give more groups like Aspen Ridge’s brew crew a chance to raise money for charity by making beer.