In late March, as more restrictions were implemented and unemployment numbers were rising, Rob Callaghan was watching the news and found inspiration and motivation to help those in his industry.
The sales manager for Tuckahoe Brewing Company in Egg Harbor Township, Callaghan has watched many of his friends and colleagues get laid off or furloughed. The same was true for hospitality workers, like bartenders, who would spend shifts filling and slinging pints.
A self-proclaimed news junkie, he is a regular viewer of ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir,” which ends broadcasts with an “America Strong” segment focusing on the good that citizens are doing to help each other. The evening’s segment was still on Callaghan’s mind as he logged on for a Facebook Live chat with the South Jersey Beer Scene to talk about how his brewery was fairing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“At the end of the chat, I started talking about how we should get something together and help all the people who have been laid off or are facing real financial hardships,” he says. In that moment, the idea for the Brewery Strong program was born.
Callaghan immediately started to brainstorm on what Brewery Strong could do and how it could help impacted workers. Together with John Couchoud, co-founder of South Jersey Beer Scene, an idea quickly began to take shape.
Through fundraising and merchandise sales, Brewery Strong will distribute money to in-need workers in the craft beer and hospitality industries. Potential recipients of the donations will be able to submit applications through the group’s website and the five-member board will make the determination.
In addition to both Callaghan and Couchoud, the board includes Matthew Czigler, owner of Czig Meister Brewing Co. in Hackettstown; Cindy DeRama, owner of Twin Elephant Brewing in Chatham; and Alexis Degan, director of the New Jersey Brewers Association.
“The craft brewing community in our state is tight-knit and incredibly supportive of each other,” Couchoud said in a statement. “This sort of grassroots effort is the type of thing we see every day. This has really ramped up during the quarantine with breweries trading materials, ideas, and other resources back and forth to help each other stay afloat. This is a natural extension of those activities.”
Brewery Strong is a registered nonprofit. According to Callaghan, within the first five days of the organization being announced, more than $1,000 had been raised in T-shirt sales alone. Other donations have come into the group and several breweries around New Jersey have designated the money made from sales of their All Together beer project (spearheaded by New York’s Other Half Brewing) be sent to Brewery Strong for disbursement.
“Brewery Strong also helps us be good partners with our fellow hospitality workers,” says Twin Elephant’s DeRama. “We have such close working relationships with the bars and restaurants that we supply our beer to, we rely on them as much as we rely on our customers. Helping out their staff is something that’s important to us as well.”
Right now, the plan for Brewery Strong is to support brewery and restaurant workers in New Jersey, but Callaghan said he’s already heard from companies in other states that want to participate in the program.
Post-pandemic, Callaghan says Brewery Strong will continue and he would like to see funds used to help individuals looking to begin or continue classes in brewery science.
“I’m a shoot for the stars kind of guy and I’m really excited to see this program grow and to see how big it can get,” says Callaghan. “So far it’s been an awesome response and we only really just got started.”Click here to leave a comment