Beer By James “Dr. Fermento” Roberts
Everyone has their own thoughts about what’s going on in Ukraine. But, no one can deny that people over there need help. Beer can’t blow MiGs out of the sky, feed the starving, or bury the dead, but it can help from afar, like it’s doing right now, right here at home.
Sometimes the quickest way to a person’s pocketbook is through their beer glass. Beer’s a known commodity when it comes to fundraising. Not only is beer made and sold to support specific causes, it’s also a people magnet and brings us all together.
There’s an event Thursday evening that’s worthy of your attendance, and even if it’s not 100 percent about beer, beer’s a big part of it. The money you spend to attend this rewarding event will provide direct financial aid to Doctors Without Borders. The organization is providing care and saving lives in Ukraine right now.
My awareness of the crisis in Ukraine didn’t come from the TV set. My immersion came from my obsession with the New Yorker, a publication I read in multiple formats, many times a day. I’m not a news fanatic or zealot; I just love good writing, and the New Yorker provides some of the best of the best across multiple subjects, most of which I’d blow off when the subject matter’s offered from other sources.
But I’m wasting column space talking about myself.
Faina Kronos was born and raised in Ukraine. She grew up, studied, and got her Master’s Degree, then decided to travel. When I interviewed her about this event, I asked her how she ended up in Alaska seven years ago. I’m always fascinated by everybody’s story about how they ended up in Alaska. In her straightforward but pleasant manner and alluring accent, “Alaska chose me,” she said, almost cutting me off, and a very matter-of-fact “nuff said” response. I know what you mean, girl.
She talked about her deeply personal experience when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. “I haven’t seen them in seven years,” she says of her father and stepmother, who are still in Kharkiv. “There was a moment of uncertainty that I’d never see them again. I spent the first weeks monitoring constantly. I was watching and reading everything and soaking up all of this horror. I got to thinking that this wasn’t healthy for me; I was depressed and worried all the time,” she said of trying to do something other than watch, hope, pray and grimace.
“My movement, my personal journey, started with attending protests in Anchorage and Juneau. Sure, that’s great for raising awareness, but it doesn’t have any tangible end result,” she says. “You go home, and that’s it. No changes have happened.”
According to a press release, “On March 25, Olena Zyuba, with support of the Juneau World Affairs Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, held a fundraiser for Ukraine in Juneau. All funds raised went to UNICEF/Ukraine Mission. Kronos was in attendance and inspired by the event.
Wanting to do something closer to home, Kronos benchmarked Zyuba’s organizational and fundraising prowess and brought the passion back to Anchorage. So, she rolled up her sleeves to host her own fundraising event in conjunction with Matanuska Brewing Company owner, publican, and restaurateur Mat Tomter.
“I’ve got some employees that are Ukrainian and have lost touch with their family members. We have some super stressed-out employees over all of this. Faina Kronos got with me and said, ‘I want to throw a fundraiser,’” says Tomter of his intro to the concept.
Tomter’s purging all of the expensive Russian vodkas from his establishments after the invasion, and pouring it all down the drain, made him the perfect person to partner with.
“It was a no-brainer. ‘I’m in,’” Tomter said without any hesitation. “What can we do, after all? This isn’t about me, and it’s not my event. I’m just donating the alcohol, which is our craft beer and cocktails. We’re also running the bar, so were doing a couple of things we’re particularly good at,” he says of openly supporting the noteworthy cause.
He’s not alone.
“Ken Prestegard of Two Seasons Meadery is donating Kazimiera Mead, which uses Ukrainian Wildflower Honey. He’s donating a case for consumption and a half case for the silent auction that’s a big part of this event,” says Kronos. “Greg at Mike’s Quality Meats donated sixty pounds of meat: thirty pounds of beef and thirty pounds of pork for making the authentic all-Ukrainian dinner that’s included with the entertainment. Colin Miller is the Executive Chef.”
The outpouring has been phenomenal so far. “If I have to describe it, I’d say we’ve been ‘generously spoiled’ by what’s been donated to make this successful,” says Kronos.
Local bands Turnagain Blue, Tanana Rafters, and Fox in the Henhouse are livening things up. Art Davidson is the keynote speaker.
But Kronos and Tomter aren’t the only ones trying to provide relief for Ukraine.
“Pravda Brewery in Ukraine released all of their recipes and the art for their beer when they converted from making beer to making Molotov Cocktails in support of the war effort,” Amber Jackson, one of the owners of Onsite Brewing Company, reminded me when I called her after learning about her brewery’s efforts.
“They said if you do a beer, donate the proceeds, and we ended up doing their Golden Strong ale. Tom put his own little spin on it. We did two barrels and did a run of 500 cans; we sold a keg of it to Hearth and had it on here. It took three days to sell out, three hours to sell out of the cans, and we raised $3,000 that we donated to UNICEF. Arctic Homebrewing donated the grain and some of the hops we didn’t have,” says Jackson, marveling over how incredibly people turned out to support the cause.
“Putin’s a dick,” says Magnetic North Brewing’s owner/brewer Jeremiah Christian.
Christian says this plain and simple, and rather matter-of-factly, stating the obvious, sort of like how we all feel, right?
“Me and Stephan [Marty] over at Bleeding Heart Brewing [Palmer] were talking about barrel-aged pilsners. Zach [Lanphier] was there too. Zach’s ex-marine and I was in the Navy. It was supposed to be an Italian pilsner. We were thinking about names. It was a few days into the invasion. We wanted to show Putin the middle finger, so we made this pilsner and called it Putin’s a Dick,” says Christian of the collaborative, artful creation.
The Devil’s Apron, a benefit beer brewed by Turnagain Brewing Company is still available at La Bodega, or it was day before yesterday when I dashed in and grabbed a bottle of what’s turned out to be one of the best beers I’ve had so far this year, Ukraine aside.
“Last fall, a professor at UAA came by and wanted to do mushroom beers, says Turnagain Brewing Company owner Ted Rosenzweig.
“He’s Russian and of Russian origin, and he got kelp from the White Sea. It’s Laminaria Kelp. We did a test batch scaled it up, aged it in bourbon barrels, and made a sour beer. His wife is half Russian/Ukrainian. All of the stars aligned, the beer, the beer was ready, and we thought, ‘why don’t we do it as a benefit for the World Central Kitchen that’s over there feeding Ukrainian refugees?’” said Rosenzweig of the project.
The label was designed by graphic artists in Kyiv, friends of the professor’s wife, who commissioned them to draw it up.
“It was a two-prong benefit. One was all draft sales that went to the relief organization. A portion of wholesale profits went to it too, and then we had a tip jar. We had a lot of very generous people show up. The beer all went very quickly. People were buying it by the case of big bomber bottles. We were really happy to do something. For a little brewery, we raised a lot of money and we gave our profit for it to a vetted, reliable, charitable organization,” he says.
Another beer available is Midnight Sun Brewing Company’s Putin’s Paper Tiger. It was released a couple of weeks ago. This is a big ass, bodacious imperial stout, an “anti-Kremlin stout,” as described by marketing director Grant Duessing.
This beer is the antithesis of a paper tiger, which by definition appears outwardly powerful, but is really inwardly weak (think Putin). Paper Tiger is not just outwardly attractive. It’s inwardly powerful. This delicious, multi-faceted dark beer bomb is not only swirling with everything tumultuous and brooding. Drink a whole 22-ounce bomber bottle of it, and you’ll get your ass kicked. It weighs in at 14-percent alcohol by volume.
There are other breweries out there in their own communities and in their own way are contributing to the defense, humanitarian, and relief efforts for Ukraine. So, keep your mug to the wall.
The Anchorage Friends of Ukraine, in partnership with the Arctic Rec Center, Matanuska Brewing Company, and Co-Work by RSD, are hosting the event which includes dinner and a silent auction. The event will be held at the Arctic Recreation Center at 4855 Arctic Blvd, at 6pm. Advance tickets are $100. Tickets for couples are $175, and single tickets are $125 at the door. Buy tickets, and if you can’t afford them, do the right thing and at least make a donation at centerak.org/events.