MISSOULA – Last year’s devastating Camp Fire in Northern California claimed 86 lives, impacted 14,000 families and burned 153,000 acres.
Many of those impacted by the blaze were employees of the nearby Sierra Nevada brewery which started to rebuild while the fire continued.
The brewery’s owner asked every brewery in the nation to join them in helping affected residents — and Montana’s beer community answered in a big way.
The Camp Fire is the deadliest in California history and the flames devastated parts of Butte County which is also home to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
John Sanden, who works for the brewery, says many of his coworker’s lives were changed the day this fire started.
“A bunch of our employees that work in the brewery in Chico – lived in Paradise. The whole town of Paradise is no longer here. Well over 50 of our employees lost their whole home — everything,” said Sanden who works as the Montana Area Manager for Sierra Nevada.
While fire burned, Sierra Nevada opened their doors, offered shelter, fed victims and donated clothes. Days later the company started a much bigger relief effort.
Brewery founder Ken Grossman asked every brewery in the nation for help — and some 1,500 — including at least seven from Montana — answered the call.
“The fact that it was so reactionary to the point where – this happened – alright what are we going to do? – let’s go – let’s make this happen,” Sander said.
“Initially our owner said he’d be happy if 200 breweries signed up for it and he got almost 1,500. Just to see that response from this speaks a lot — not only the community, but the brewery industry as a whole.”
Sierra Nevada asked the breweries to make their own Resilience Butte County Proud IPA using Sierra Nevada’s recipe.
KettleHouse Brewing Company, Great Burn, Higher Ground Brewing, Lewis and Clark Brewing and Bozeman Brewing, Beaverhead and Uberbrew were sent the ingredients and are now are ready to share their beer with the community.
People can try those beers on Wednesday night at the Rhino in Missoula.
While this all may seem far removed from the devastation in Northern California – it’s what will happen that will make a difference for the victims in California still trying to put their lives back together.
All of the money received will be given to the Sierra Nevada Relief Fund which helps those impacted by the Camp Fire.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea – people like beer and people usually like to help people out. You throw those two in the mix and I think we have a great social event set up for tomorrow night,” Rhino co-owner Brad Matrens said.
The event will begin at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the Rhino and folks will be able to order the Resilience IPA, which will consist of one IPA from each of the Montana breweries.
Reporting by Kent Luetzen for MTN News