It’s no secret Wilmington has been an iconic location for filming popular movies and TV shows for decades. Yet, the industry and our local economy took a major hit in 2015 with the sunset of a competitive film tax incentive. Though it’s coming back slowly, in its wake a few years ago, another industry was rising and adding variety and flavor to ILM, figuratively and economically: the craft beer industry.
Before 2014 Front Street Brewery was the only major brewer serving Wilmington since 1995. As soon as city council passed an ordinance to classify breweries differently, tap rooms began peppering our southeastern shoreline with more than a dozen located from Topsail to Wilmington to Carolina Beach to Southport. The boon hasn’t only meant feeding the cravings of beer enthusiasts but also giving another rise to nonprofits who can benefit from the pairing, so to speak.
Enter CauseBeer’s Pint Nights, wherein charity donations and drinking locally crafted beer go hand in hand.
Jonathan Dixon, founder of CauseBeer, started the organization in 2015 after working for a company that sold keg lifters to craft breweries. “As great as the beer was, what intrigued me most was the camaraderie within the industry and their genuine heart for local needs,” Dixon says. “I knew craft beer was going to transform economics in North Carolina and have a positive influence in the lives of those in their local community. I wanted to be part of it and help create a catalyst and vehicle to that end.”
Today, CauseBeer encourages and helps craft-beverage producers, bottle shops and bars host fundraisers through a series of what they call “Pint Nights,” featuring live music and raffles, paired with food and tasty brews from local breweries. They also give an annual $1,000 Merit College Scholarship to a graduating high-school senior or full-time college student. In upcoming weeks their Pint Nights will land at Good Hops in Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach Brewery off Oleander Drive, Fermental in Ogden, and Wilmington Brewing Company on Kerr Avenue. For every pint sold, the businesses donate $1 to CauseBeer, which distributes monies raised to local charities. Over the last three years funds have been distributed to DREAMS of Wilmington, a nonprofit providing youth in need with free arts education courses in a multitude of media.
“Many craft-beer entities host their own events for a variety of local needs,” Dixon tells. “At CauseBeer, we can assist them by providing a 501(c)3 that allows them to give to needs that might not always have a tax-exempt umbrella.”
CauseBeer helps foster stronger relationships born from hosting events that bond the community and local businesses. Dixon says craft-beer breweries have become the new “church,” so to speak. In the past people moved to cities and connected with a house of worship for relationship-building and to help those in need. Today, it comes in many other forms—and, yes, even, beer. Enthusiasts often consider the location of breweries, bottle shops, and tap rooms when determining where they will live for the same types of social and philanthropic aspects a church may provide.
“Knowing we can help those in need in our area is a common goal all local breweries share and CauseBeer does a tremendous job coordinating with breweries for fundraisers,” according to Lisa Owings, owner of Broomtail and Sour Barn. “[To] date, we have raised over $250 and are still collecting donations [through the season.] We are grateful for locals that come out to enjoy local craft beer and help others in need.”
CauseBeer’s focus right now is on their #ILMBeerXmas campaign, which supplies presents for families in need. 2018 again will funnel funds to DREAMS of Wilmington via numerous events taking place throughout the holiday season. Since starting the #ILMBeerXmas three years ago, CauseBeer has raised more than $7,000.
“The ‘benefit’ of using CauseBeer instead of breweries individually donating [comes with an] educational component, too,” tells Jaime Chadwick, whose Cape Fear Community College hospitality marketing class helps promote and plan Pint Nights. “Each student is assigned a brewery, and they are responsible for promoting, advertising, gathering local business’ gift certificates for raffle prizes, and being the contact liaison for specific Pint Nights. The practical and hands-on experience is much more educational than simply learning marketing jargon and terms. Being able to apply the information in a real scenario develops valuable event planning and marketing skills.”
Nine Pint Nights for #ILMBeerXmas are scheduled for 2018. Costs incurred from the drives—whether purchasing stickers, signs, etc.—is paid by donations. “It allows us to use to pass 100 percent of donations to the cause,” Dixon tells. “Ultimately, we believe what we do, even if small, has a positive influence to impact an individual and change the trajectory of their life and future generations. As Muhammad Ali said, ‘The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.’ I always ask: If we don’t do it, who will?”
The NC craft beer community as a whole has helped propel CauseBeer into the forefront of giveback. Dixon has received assistance from organizations like 919Beer, NC Beer Guys, and Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance. “Without the support of these groups, we could do nothing,” he spills. “I believe—well, I know—people love helping, and most people want to help those in need, but like all of us, they are busy and the vehicle for giving is not always easy or accessible. Drink a beer, give a donation, volunteer. By partnering with CauseBeer, a local brewery can be sure their money is going to local needs and they can spend their time doing what they do best: making great beer.”
Dixon welcomes all NC breweries or craft beer bottle shops to host a Pint Night. Or they can donate a portion of daily, weekly, monthly, or even annual proceeds.
CauseBeer Pint Nights
Saturday, November 24,
5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Good Hops Brewing
811 Harper Ave.
Monday, November 26
5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Wrightsville Beach Brewery
6201 Oleander Dr.
Thursday, December 6
5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
7250 Market St.
Friday, December 7
5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Wilmington Brewing Company
824 S. Kerr Ave.
Additional reporting by Shea Carver.