It was just after 7 a.m. last Friday, and Brad Shell was enjoying his first beer of the day while relaxing in a beach chair, flanked by two coolers and an inflatable cactus. On live TV.
A half-hour later the founder of The Unknown Brewing Co. would also feed a kangaroo named Tang, but not before telling Fox 46 Charlotte about the Brewers Charity Championship, a new effort encouraging local breweries to become even more involved in their communities.
“It creates goodwill all over Charlotte, so why not?” said Shell. “We’re a Charlotte brewery and we wanted to show how much we care about our community. But more importantly, we don’t want to make this story about us. We’re making this story about Charlotte breweries all together.”
While Shell was on air, Jenny Sassman from Birdsong Brewing Co. and Phil Buchy from Legion Brewing called in to accept the challenge. Other breweries have signed on since, including Blue Blaze Brewing Co., Granite Falls Brewing Co., Lenny Boy Brewing Co., NoDa Brewing Co., Triple C Brewing Co. and Wooden Robot Brewery.
Shell notes that most of Charlotte’s breweries already do quite a bit throughout the year, whether by donating a portion of sales to charity, donating beer to events or offering event space to worthy causes. Different kinds of donations carry different amounts of points, as follows:
- One point: for every $5 donated to a charity (includes the retail value of donated brewery merchandise)
- One point: for each pint of beer donated to a charity
- 40 points: for each torpedo or sixtel keg donated to a charity
- 120 points: for each ½ barrel keg donated to a charity
“Everybody already has their charities they support,” said Shell. “But I think the cool thing to see is where we’ll be come November or December. I know if I’m behind a brewery by 500 points, I’m going to work really hard to win. The hell if I want to wear that chicken suit.”
Shell is referring to what will befall the brewer who finishes in last place. That person will have to raise money at the corner of Trade and Tryon while wearing a chicken suit. The winner, though, gets a custom-made wrestling belt.
Shell will be tracking the progress of all breweries, and then sharing updates on a leaderboard every month at Fox 46 Charlotte.
At The Unknown Brewing Co., that means Shell will be tracking efforts from their existing charitable contributions, including donating a portion of sales each Saturday through Unknown Bike and Brew charity rides or working to support Purple Heart Homes and other organizations through events like its annual Charlotte Smokeoff, which returns April 23.
Just about every brewery in town already has similar causes they support, but Shell expects he and other breweries in town will be doing more events this year with bragging rights — and a wrestling belt — on the line.
“I think that’s going to push everybody over the top, especially during those last few months, to raise more than they would usually as that competition tightens up,” he said.
Photos: Jacki Keating, The Unknown Brewing Co.