While the COVID-19 outbreak has brought its fair share of bad news, it has also allowed for a number of businesses to shine in incredible ways. All over the United States, craft beverage producers have been stepping up to make an impact, and the creative contributions some cideries have been making in their respective communities are truly awe-inspiring. From donating profits to providing meals for those in need, these cideries are giving back right now in a big way.
Metal House Cider in New York is donating 35% of retail sales — the entire profit margin between wholesale and retail — to the Radio Kingston Community Fund to support its community due to the effects of COVID-19. The fund specifically addresses the financial needs of those in the area, providing direct relief through $500 disbursements to people who apply.
According to Kimberly Kae, owner of Metal House Cider, the area is equipped with many meal and supply operations, but for those living paycheck to paycheck, something as simple as their car breaking down could set a community member back that much further right now.
“We love the work we do and recognize how fortunate we are to do it,” Kae says. “We also live in an incredible community that has been supportive to us, and we want to support it however we can without abandoning our commitment to our orchard and business. This seemed like a way to do that.”
Finnriver Farm and Cidery in Washington has opted to bring its community together during this time by introducing the Finnriver Incider Space — a virtual gathering spot for people to learn together. The Incider Space events are offered on a low-cost sliding fee scale for a monthly membership. Zoom-based lectures are held focused on the arts or community-minded topics, as well as options such as yoga and meditation classes, live music showcases and cooking demos.
“Finnriver has always had a mission to reconnect people to the land and to grow community,” says Crystie Kisler, Finnriver co-owner. “With the restrictions to public gathering required by the Coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to keep our mission intact and find alternative ways to keep folks connected. It’s been very touching to connect with folks through this medium, and I know I am experiencing a heartening level of vulnerability, graciousness and kindness from the folks participating.”
FOOD FOR ALL
During a time when the majority of schools are operating in an online capacity, many children are not able to get the school breakfast or lunches they’re used to, so Blake’s Hard Cider in Michigan has stepped up to help out. According to Kaley Pittsley, director of marketing for Blake’s, any child under the age of 18 can get a free hot dog lunch, seven days a week, with no questions asked.
“We are fortunate enough to be from a tight-knit community that prides itself on hard work and a devotion to family,” Pittsley says. “Just the very thought of kids going hungry due to the schools being closed was something we couldn’t ignore. We consider ourselves fortunate to have the means to provide food to these children, but it doesn’t go unnoticed that the reason we are so fortunate is because of our community. To us, providing lunches to children is just a small way we can take care of our community right now in these trying times. Just like they have taken care of us in hard times, in bad weather, and through seasons where we lost all of our crop. Right now, it’s our turn.”
In Virginia, Castle Hill Cider has introduced its Cider for a Cause initiative, donating to an area food bank. The cidery is discounting bottles of cider to encourage more sales, and for every case that is purchased, $10 is donated to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which services over 100,000 people in need across 25 counties each month. Each $10 donation from Castle Hill Cider has the potential to provide 40 meals for the neighbors in its area.
Brewery-cidery hybrid Lake Drum Brewing is serving as a food distribution site for those in need of a hearty meal in northen New York. Lake Drum is working with local nonprofit organization, BluePrint Geneva, to provide low-cost meals in the community. The nonprofit is cooking up everything from meatloaf and mashed potatoes to tacos and pasta dishes made with love, and many of the meals go for under $10 for two portions. Those hungry for a meal can order and pick up at Lake Drum, and all of the money made through food purchases goes toward funding free community meals for those in need, as well as going back into funding the following week’s food program.
Across the country in northwest Washington, Bellingham Cider Co. has been busy lending a hand, and its van, to deliver meals to those in need throughout their community. The Bellingham Cider crew has helped to transport meals for local seniors at the Blaine Senior Center, bringing 150 prepared frozen meals to seniors in need. The cidery has also partnered with a local credit union to deliver lunches to an area medical clinic as a special treat for frontline workers.
While many distilleries across the U.S. have started producing hand sanitizer by the gallon, it’s not as prevalent when it comes to cideries. But Cider Creek Hard Cider in New York came up with the ideal way to collaborate with other beverage makers in its area, working together to produce hand sanitizer with a focus on serving health care facilities, first responders, essential businesses and those with compromised immune systems.
Cider Creek co-owner Kevin Collins already had his cider in barrels, and Justin Recktenwald of Wild Brute Winery donated wine for the effort. They paired up with Krooked Tusker Distillery to distill the donated juice, and it has turned into a community effort with other craft beverage makers getting involved since.
About 100 miles upstate from Cider Creek, Rootstock Ciderworks is also making hand sanitizer, but courtesy of its sibling company and distillery, Apple Country Spirits. Once Food and Drug Administration gave the go-ahead on distilleries producing sanitizer, the family-run company switched the fruit-based vodka production to making cleaner. Rootstock launched “Ella’s Hanitizer” and has been offering it in 750-milliliter bottles to those in need.
Just yesterday, Blake’s Hard Cider announced it will supply liquid hand sanitizer anywhere in the state of Michigan, manufacturing and distributing gallon-size hand sanitizer for hospitals and large businesses, plus in 8-ounce spray bottle-size available for purchase for the public and free for first responders.
The giving back doesn’t stop here as more and more producers join the cause. Find locations in your area to support as well right here.