By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Two brothers wanted a family-friendly brewery, so they built one. Now, Eugene’s ColdFire Brewing sees itself as a hub for bettering the larger community. Early on the two founders, who are also brothers and dads, made a business commitment to focus on children's nonprofit organizations, and more specifically, children's health organizations.
“We all take our kids to the same schools, pay the same bills, buy groceries locally and spend our recreational time locally,” explains ColdFire co-founder Dan Hughes. “It's the broader sense of being part of a community that drives our business values to extend beyond our walls. It is our duty and our privilege to give back where we can.”
Focusing on children is also a way for ColdFire to express their commitment to the next generation. “We want to invest in a way that makes sense,” says Hughes, “by helping those who will be taking the reins from us someday, and maybe inspire them to do the same.”
Not that “alcohol” and “family-friendly” usually appear in the same sentence — much less the same business plan. Between the lingering legacy of Prohibition, as well as national ad campaigns that aren’t exactly known for focusing on family, beer has gained a bad rep. That association is inaccurate, says Hughes, who was inspired by the family-friendly pub culture of Ireland and Germany.
“European communities know what we are trying to recapture here: family is welcome everywhere,” says Hughes. “People there have vastly different expectations on what's expected at a pub. It's centered around food, music, socialization, and family is a key aspect. We see this changing rapidly here in the U.S., and we are very much a part of it.”
ColdFire backs that up not only with its support of community organizations and causes, but also with the simple nuts and bolts of the brewery: visitors to ColdFire can let their kids romp in a play area while parents enjoy a quiet pint.
The family-friendly culture — and kid-welcoming layout — is part of what brought local nonprofit WellMama to ColdFire. With volunteers providing pregnancy and postpartum mental health support services (including services in Spanish) for moms and their families throughout Lane County, WellMama’s fundraising events with ColdFire and Ninkasi have demonstrated how powerful breweries can be in raising awareness for a good cause. WellMama is also looking at how it can further collaborate with breweries to grow its Reaching All Mothers Initiative to support women in underserved areas and bring everybody in the community together.
“ColdFire presented us with an idea to work together, hang out, have family-friendly community events and see what happens,” says Jessica Schultz, WellMama volunteer coordinator. “The intent was to look for something where we could have families and especially kids welcome at, not just board members or staff. We could get everybody together. ColdFire is particularly family friendly, and that serves our mission of serving families and of helping families be healthier.”
Schultz sees the laid-back atmosphere of a brewery, plus its role as a community melting pot, as key ways to help people overcome social stigmas and personal embarrassment — common barriers that often prevent people from seeking needed services. Schultz also appreciates that craft breweries host local food carts and provide non-alcoholic options, striking a balance of healthy and fun interactions with the community.
“Most of us have had experience with postpartum depression and anxiety, and now we want to reach out to other mamas and help them,” says Schultz. “The breweries create space for people to come, relax, and feel like they can be themselves. They can support WellMama and support other families. The breweries bring that together.”
Dan Hughes sees ColdFire continuing to increase its role in supporting the broader community. Plans for 2017 and onward include more support of organizations such as WellMama, local school events and the nearby Campbell Community Center.
“People love a well-crafted beverage. They enjoy socialization. And they love it even more when they can do these things while supporting a good organization,” says Hughes. “We are building our business’s future, so we build our community’s future through our children.”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.