UPDATE: Sierra Nevada has now released a statement, which you can read below.
With almost 1,500 U.S. craft breweries joining Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in an effort to both brew Resilience IPA and raise funds for the survivors of the devastating wildfires that rocked California in 2018, it was inevitable that some aspects of this massive plan were going to go askew. This is a beer industry charity project on a massive, truly unprecedented scale, with dollar totals that were routinely reported as being upward of $15 million raised for relief purposes. Like the fires themselves, the idea of Resilience IPA spread rapidly and had considerable momentum as a force for good.
In order to do that good, however, it turns out the participating breweries really need to live up to their side of the agreement. And unfortunately, evidence has emerged this week suggesting that hundreds of breweries are apparently dragging their feet on doing so.
On Tuesday, participating breweries in the Resilience IPA project received an email from Sierra Grossman, the co-owner and Vice President of Sierra Nevada, and daughter of iconic company founder Ken Grossman. Although said email goes on to detail much of the good that the fund has already accomplished, Grossman notes that there are still more than 10,000 people in temporary housing because of the fires, and reveals something shocking: More than half of the funding from Resilience IPA sales apparently hasn’t yet been received by Sierra. The deadline for those donations was supposed to be May 14, 2019. Shout out to the guys over at Worst Beer Blog, who got hold of the email and shared it with the beer community via Twitter, amplifying the message.
Grossman goes on to write “I’d prefer not to have to call those of you left and ask for your donation (which might be the next step, and after hundreds of calls, who knows what delirious version of me you’ll get). It suggests not only the vexed nature of working to collect these promised donations, but also the very real possibility that there are HUNDREDS of breweries that brewed Resilience IPA but haven’t yet donated the proceeds from it. How else would Sierra Nevada still have “not even half” of the overall pledges that were promised?
The good news is that the fund has still raised millions of dollars regardless, and is continuing to help those displaced by the fires to rebuild their lives, but to promise these donations and then withhold the funds is a pretty serious level of charlatanism that we never want to see within the world of craft beer. Unsurprisingly, beer industry figures were quick to cast their blanket condemnation on any breweries holding back on sending in their donations, even though no specific breweries have been named. We join them in calling for the promised donations to find their way to Sierra Nevada’s charity.
With all this said, it seems likely that the failure of some breweries to pay up is more likely than not a failure of planning and execution than one of willful neglect—small breweries with tight operating budgets, which didn’t make concessions in their budgets for the donation, or found themselves strapped for cash when the time came to pay up. We’re in the midst of a challenging business climate for breweries of all sizes, not that this excuses anyone of reneging on promises of charitable donations. Who knows—perhaps some breweries simply hoped that in a field of almost 1,500 breweries, their lack of contribution wouldn’t be noted. But that doesn’t work, when it’s hundreds of breweries not sending in their checks.
We hope that with time, a majority of these funds finally reach the people they were initially intended to help.
Update: Sierra Nevada makes the following statement about the Resilience funds, acknowledging the fact that more than half the total funding has not yet arrived, but also saying that many breweries simply need more time. We hope they’re right. The full statement is below.
We are so proud to report that millions in Resilience fundraising has already come in. Those donations have been put to work funding projects including temporary housing, offsetting the cost of permits to rebuild, hiring a city planner who specializes in disaster recovery, funding child trauma reduction efforts, providing bus passes for students, and more.
However, it is true that more than half of the pledges have not yet been received. It is important to note that the beer was in market until April 30, so many breweries and retailers have just recently seen those funds come in. Breweries of all sizes stepped forward in this Herculean effort and we are hearing from more of them each day. We deeply understand the challenges of operating a brewery and are actively working with our friends to establish realistic timelines for donations. We are however hopeful that those funds will be received as soon as possible so we can continue funding this essential work.
We remain eternally grateful to our suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, and our incredible brewing community who have made Resilience possible.