This week, one local firefighter did something rather outside of his job description — he went to Uncle Billy's Brewery & Smokehouse, where he is a frequent customer, and helped to brew a beer that will benefit a cause close to his heart. Uncle Billy's is one of more than 1,000 breweries across the country participating in a philanthropic effort that will help out California wildfire victims devastated by this month's Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in the state's history.
Although Lieutenant Bryan Knox was not one of the local firefighters who traveled to California to battle out-of-control flames, he jumped at the chance to show solidarity with the ones who did, accepting Uncle Billy's offer to help make the upcoming Resilience Butte County Proud IPA.
Uncle Billy's is one of nearly 50 Texas breweries that have stepped up to make the beer, which locally includes Hops & Grain, Last Stand Brewing and St. Elmo Brewing.
The recipe for the beer was created by Sierra Nevada, a large craft brewery located not far from where the Camp Fire obliterated the town of Paradise starting on Nov. 8. (It has now been completely contained.) Proceeds from all of the Resilience IPAs made by participating breweries across the U.S. will be given to the Camp Fire Relief Fund, also created by the Chico-area brewery. And it's a cause that Uncle Billy's head brewer, Stephen Wagner, also couldn't resist getting involved in.
"This was a total no-brainer," Wagner said. "The beauty of the craft beer industry is in the passion of its people. Sierra Nevada is a large enough business that they could have written a donation check and left it at that. But instead, they decided to craft a beer recipe and brew a batch to sell 100 percent for charity. Then gave out the recipe and invited every brewery in the country to do the same."
Sierra Nevada asked all participating breweries to make the Resilience IPA — a 6.5 percent ABV brew featuring Centennial and Cascade hops — on Giving Tuesday this week. All of the beers will be ready to drink just before Christmas, Wagner said, and released around or on the same day. There isn't an exact date yet.
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A bonus element to the project is that Sierra Nevada has helped to offset the cost of brewing the beer for participating breweries. The California brewery negotiated with suppliers to reduce the price of ingredients, in some cases — including Uncle Billy's — making them completely free. Wagner was also able to get the needed malts in time to produce the beer with Knox this week, despite last week's holiday.
In the Texas Hill Country, Last Stand also brewed the Resilience IPA on Nov. 27. Co-owner Kerry Richardson said the beer industry as a whole is collaborative and supportive, willing to help out no matter state boundaries or borders.
"When Sierra Nevada put out the call for help, we stepped up because we hope other breweries would do the same of Texas if some devastating happened here,” Richardson said. "We cannot wait to share this beer with our customers and do our small part to help rebuild the communities impacted by the fire.”
Try the beer on draft at the Last Stand taproom only once it's released, although you'll be able take it to go in crowlers or growlers as well. In fact, none of the participating breweries will be distributing their versions of the Resilience IPA, per the request of Sierra Nevada to keep it solely in the taproom.
Each of the Resilience IPAs might taste more or less the same, but unique to Uncle Billy's release party of the beer is that Knox and other area firefighters will be present for it.
"To be a part of this effort and do it as a part of this amazing industry was something we just couldn't say no to," Wagner said.