Several Jersey Breweries Join Nationwide Collaborative Project to Save the Arts

Proceeds from the Curtain Up brewing project will be donated to the Actors Fund, a nationwide organization that assists entertainment workers in need.

Photo courtesy of Curtain Up.

Even with the glimmer of hope from a Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon, there are still many industries still suffering amid shutdowns and restrictions. Chief among them is the theater and arts community, which has been largely shuttered since last spring and looks to stay on that course for the foreseeable future.

Enter the Happy Hour Guys, James Ludwig and Mark Aldrich, who are here to facilitate a little help. Over the last several years they have hosted a popular Internet drinking show, and launched the Broadway Brew project, which paired a brewery with a specific Broadway show to create a beer with proceeds going to charity.

Their most popular one was with New York’s Gun Hill Brewing and Hamilton: The Musical. Together, they made a farmhouse ale called Rise Up Rye. Carton Brewing, based in Atlantic Highlands, made a beer with the musical School of Rock, to brew an imperial black ale called School of Hops. Other shows involved include Waitress, Phantom of the Opera and Come From Away.

While they wanted that line of beers to continue, Covid-19 presented challenges, says Aldrich.

“Our solution was to create the Curtain Up beer initiative. It’s an open-sourced beer recipe, a hazy IPA settling in around 6.5 percent ABV,” he says. Gun Hill Brewing created the recipe, and it will be available for other breweries to download and replicate.

“We’re inviting breweries around the country to brew their own versions to help raise money and awareness,” Aldrich says. “As the need will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, we’re asking brewers to make it whenever suits their brew schedule from now through the end of 2021.”

Dozens of breweries have already signed up and are planning multiple batches. The proceeds will go to help the live entertainment industry, which will likely continue to be impacted through at least the end of next summer.

The program officially launched last Thursday, but Ludwig says a few breweries already have their beer in the tanks and some batches could be available as early as this week.

Several New Jersey breweries have already signed onto the program, including Departed Soles Brewing Company in Jersey City, Icarus Brewing in Lakewood, Alementary Brewing Co. in Hackensack, Jughandle Brewing in Tinton Falls, Ross Brewing Co. in Port Monmouth and Old Hights Brewing Company in Hightstown.

“Old Hights was built upon the ideals of helping our community in Hightstown, which includes supporting the arts,” says Old Hights co-owner Lisa Costantino. “On our team alone, we have three full-time music teachers, as well as families full of musicians and artists.”

Proceeds from the sale of this beer will benefit the Actors Fund, a nationwide organization that assists all entertainment workers in need from musicians to stagehands, ushers and actors. The Happy Hour Guys, professional actors themselves, are also encouraging breweries to contribute to arts organizations in their own communities as well.

“Departed Soles is located just across the river from the bright lights of Broadway, and many members of our community are performing artists. Our brewery is even located in Jersey City’s Powerhouse Arts District, and they just opened up an Arts’ Center down the street, despite the pandemic. Way back, when things were normal, we proudly worked with the community to support musicians, comedians and varying other arts. So this is a cause I am passionate about,” says owner Brian Kulbacki.

He continues: “While I may have hung up my acting shoes in high school, my family and I frequent shows, and I have friends in the industry that have been out of work since the spring. When Departed Soles went through our last round of hiring in the summer, I would estimate a quarter of the applicants were out-of-work former Broadway or Off-Broadway actors, musicians, talent, or support, looking for something creative to apply their skills to. It was shocking, but really highlighted the struggle. When Gun Hill approached us with this opportunity, I was ‘not going to throw away my shot’ to lend a hand.”

The Curtain Up Beer initiative joins several other beer-based causes that have launched in the last year including All Together, an IPA designed to help hospitality workers and Black Is Beautiful, an imperial stout where proceeds benefit social justice causes.

“We’ve always felt there is a great synergy between the artistry of craft brewers and live performance artists. Each step of our project has proven this to be true,” Ludwig says. “From Broadway to Nashville to Hollywood, these industries are lying dormant. We want to let them know they’re not in it alone.”

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