How Craft Beer Aims to Support Ukraine | Wine Enthusiast
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How Craft Beer Aims to Support Ukraine

Within days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a brewery in Lviv posted a picture to Instagram of three 750-ml bottles with cloth coming out of the opening. The team at the Pravda Beer Theatre was hand-bottling Molotov cocktails that day, wrote owner Yuri Zastavny. “It’s a very special bottling. We’ll bottle beer later.”

The picture became international news and a symbol of the determination with which Ukrainians were defending their homeland. It also served as a call to action among the global brewing community who saw their colleagues working under the most difficult of circumstances and wanted to help, however they could.

As many breweries have done recently during times of crisis, disaster and unrest, some sprung into immediate action, creating and releasing beers with proceeds going to relief efforts.

Pravda beer label "Kyiv not Kiev" design.
Kyiv not Kiev beer label / Courtesy Pravda Beer Theatre

Among them is California-based Russian River Brewing. In early April, the brewery will release a new version of their Defenestration bottling, “a West meets East Coast-style IPA with tons of juicy hop aroma and bitterness,” with a new recipe and labeling that includes a diapered Russian President Vladimir Putin. All sales proceeds will be donated to humanitarian efforts to help Ukrainian refugees.

Russian River will also release Putin Huylo (“Putin is a dickhead”) as part of an initiative dubbed “Brewing for Ukraine,” which features a golden ale recipe and label from Pravda Beer. The recipe has been shared around the world and numerous breweries have agreed to brew the beer and release it along with its label, which depicts an unflattering illustration of the Russian leader. All proceeds from beers released as part of the initiative are pledged to humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Taking on the Russian leader in various forms of insult is popular among brewers. Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin created a special label for its 32-oz crowler sales that features an image of Vladimir Putin with the words “Putin is a Dick” written across his forehead. The brewery calls it “an honest appraisal of the Russian leader.”

By St. Patrick’s Day, the brewery had sold more than 5,000 crowlers as well as t-shirts and stickers featuring the label. It also donated more than $54,000 to the UN Relief Fund for Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine, a brewery representative told Wine Enthusiast.

Pravda beer label with "Putin Huylo" design.
Putin Huylo beer label / Courtesy Pravda Beer Theatre, artwork by Andriy Yermolenko

Beyond breweries, beer drinkers and writers covering the drinks industry have also come together to raise funds for the International Red Cross through the Drinkers for Ukraine initiative.

There are three approaches to the campaign, says Lana Svitankova, one of the administrators and Ukraine’s first certified Cicerone. The first is a sponsored auction that offered unique experiences, signed books and other items from writers across the world, including this reporter. To date, the auction raised more than $11,000.

The group has also created a “solidarity brew” that can be brewed around the world, with the expectation that brewers donate proceeds to relief and support efforts. The Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout RESIST is a high-abv (alcohol by volume) dark ale created by displaced Ukraine brewers who added beetroot to the recipe for a more authentic, local flavor, says Svitankova.

Today, on March 26, 2022, the group will hold a fundraising livestream to auction off special bottles, exclusive experiences and more.

“It is heartening that, two years into a pandemic which has worn down most of our charitable instincts and left many of us fighting fatigue and cynicism, people are still capable of coming together to support colleagues and friends—and strangers—caught up in a horrific, inhuman war,” says Eoghan Walsh, founder of Brussels Beer City and a co-organizer of the Drinkers for Ukraine initiative.

Global attention by the beer community on Ukraine has also put forward an interest in the relatively new style of Ukrainian Golden Ale, which Svitankova calls “neither Belgian Golden Strong Ale nor British Golden Ale” in a blog post. First brewed in Donetsk in 2009 by Yuzivska Brewery, it is described as a “pale, moderately-strong beer with full maltiness and supportive, but noticeable bitterness, featuring fruity or spicy aroma from hops, New- or Old-World varietals respectively, and either neutral or moderately phenolic yeast profile.” It finishes dry, with a lingering sweet after taste.

“Seeing the atrocities happening in Ukraine, as the son of a Ukrainian mom whose family had to flee in the ‘40s from Ukraine, we felt we needed to do something, whatever we could to help and get together with the rest of the world to help,” says Jeremy Lees, owner of Flounder Brewing Co. in New Jersey. “To have musicians, food trucks, restaurants etc. all step up to donate their services as we hosted two large fundraisers at our taproom has been a perfect example of everyone coming together for those in immediate need. Another fundraising day is in planning with the release of our version of Putin Huylo in solidarity with Pravda Brewery coming up.”

It’s part of the brewery’s ongoing efforts to provide and demonstrate its support, Lees says.

“It will be important for all of us to continue to help those in need from the horrors of the invasion and we will continue to raise money until the millions of Ukrainians have homes again.”

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