When the Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance (CFCBA) had to cancel its Cape Fear Craft Beer Week events earlier this month, it meant a loss of celebration for local craft beer, not to mention the cost of potential growth. Wilmington’s craft beer industry has been a viable economic boost to the Cape Fear. According to a report done at UNCW by Dr. Adam Jones’ microeconomics class in 2018, the industry brought in over $20 million in sales to our county. As our community faces many losses amid the COVID-19 crisis, new ideas spring to action and evolve to keep a semblance of support building within the industry. For CFCBA that evolution has resulted in a virtual beer festival taking place tomorrow, Saturday, March 28, 2 – 6 p.m., on social media.
“Rob [Robinson] from Waterline Brewing had the idea and was trying to figure out how to execute it,” says alliance board member Jeremy Tomlinson. “One of his brewers saw a similar event in Iowa so we looked at what they were doing.”
The Iowa version used the hashtag #virtualbeerfest as a way to raise money for industry folks who are out of work and need help paying bills currently. Since so many local businesses have had to close or cut down production and staff significantly to get through this unprecedented economic hardship, CFCBA decided to replicate the program locally.
“People can go to our Cape Fear Craft Beer Week website and buy a ‘ticket,’ then join us on March 28 by posting to social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) using our hashtags.”
CFCBA asks folks to post pictures of their favorite local beer using the hashtags #capefearcraft, #virtualbeerfest, #ilmbeer, #ncbeer, #craftonthecoast and #virtualbeerality, and to tag @craftoncoastnc. Tomlinson requests participants buy a “ticket” on the website, which basically is a donation to help raise funds for staff in the industry who aren’t working right now. “Tickets” start at $5, but there are add-ons akin to attending a true in-person beer fest: VIP is $10, and additional costs one might normally accrue, like a pretzel necklace ($5) or gas money ($25) or accommodations ($100), can be donated. Plus, there are higher-priced sponsorship levels.
“If we raise enough money to be viable, we will distribute cash or gift cards to those hit hardest during this time,” Tomlinson reveals. For instance, he says if the virtual beer fest raised $5,000, they could pay 100 people $50—enough to pay a bill or for a tank of gas.
“We will probably rely on local businesses to refer people [who may need help],” Tomlinson adds. “If we don’t raise enough to give directly to individuals, we will put it into the grocery program.”
The grocery program is a partnership the alliance has culled with the help of Nourish NC—a nonprofit that feeds hungry school-aged kids in southeastern NC. Nourish’s executive director, Steve McCrossan, has worked in the service industry and knows firsthand the hardships that line of work entails. Though Nourish NC won’t provide food or monetary support, they will help logistically.
“In the spirit of community, we will provide technical guidance,” McCrossan clarifies. “We are lending our time and skills because many of the of these businesses and folks who work at them have supported NourishNC and our kids in the past.”
The grocery program is open to all Wilmington service industry workers. Folks can sign up at capefearcraft.org/grocery-signup. Tomlinson and the alliance plan to focus on grocery staples, like bread, peanut butter, pasta, cereal, etc. “We are going to work on getting fresh produce as well,” he says. “The Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance currently has enough money to get started and go for a couple weeks based on 100 bags of groceries each week.”
Cape Fear Craft Beer Week Virtual Beer Fest
Saturday, March 28, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Tickets: $5-$10, with add-on donations available
100% proceeds go to local service-industry workers
To learn how to participate: capefearcraftbeerweek.com