Beer fundraiser is picking up steam for North Bay fire victims


A new fundraiser for North Bay fire victims is picking up steam, as beer makers around the state and nation craft their own versions of "Sonoma Pride."


The campaign began with two local breweries, Russian River and Bear Republic, who decided just days after the disaster to craft and sell a signature beer to raise money.


At Russian River Brewing's brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa, the new brew debuted on Halloween, and is outselling the flagship Pliny the Elder. 


"We made a very hoppy blonde ale that we could have finished in two weeks, and we added some really fun hops to it," enthused co-owner Natalie Cilurzo, who founded the brewery with husband Vinnie.


"We had employees lose their homes, the first week was chaos," Cilurzo recalled, "and then we started asking what can we do?"


The couple has made beer called "Sonoma Pride" in the past, but the name has added significance now.

 And sales of the new version will be donated to fire relief, with other brewers invited to do the same.  


Sixty beer makers around the nation are producing their own versions of "Sonoma Pride", with proceeds earmarked for North Bay  fire victims who may fall through the cracks.    


"People who are still living in shelters, who are living in cars, or camping, I'm hoping we find them, " explained Cilurzo, "because  maybe they don't qualify for FEMA aid, they don't have any insurance, or maybe they don't know where to reach out."


In Rohnert Park, another "Sonoma Pride" ale is also selling fast.


"People like beer, and they like new beers, and it has just exploded, this whole campaign," exclaimed Cami Kent of Bear Republic Brewing. 


Cami oversaw construction of the new brewpub in Rohnert Park; her husband is the head brewer. 

They lost their Fountain Grove home in the fire. 


"Really right now, the most important thing are the hugs and the smiles and the contact with the community," smiled Cami. 


She admits working with her husband on the special beer, just days after their loss, was gratifying. 

"For him and I to be part of putting this beer together, and brewing it, and being part of that and collaborating, it's been great."  


Customers appear more than willing to support the cause. 


At Russian River Brewing, "Sonoma Pride" tee-shirts are also on sale; 100 percent of all "Sonoma Pride" products are dedicated to victims via a local foundation. 

"This is pretty special to come and help," customer Tom Comas enthused, as he and a table of friends, all former evacuees, raised a toast. 

"We get to drink beer to boot, we all lived through it, and we're trying to recover," added McComas. 


The "Sonoma Pride" website has details on beer purveyors and release dates. 


So far almost $250,000 has been raised, half of that in $25 raffle tickets, in which the prize was line-cutting privileges when Russian River's limited Pliny the Younger comes out in February.


Cilurzo says all supplies and ingredients, from the bottle to cap, associated with "Sonoma Pride" are

being absorbed by the company, so that the maximum amount can help fire survivors. 

"We wouldn't do it any other way, we'll just tighten our belts a little bit," she explained, "and we're just grateful that we can help our community out." 


Of "Sonoma Pride", she says 100 barrels were produced, each containing 31 gallons. 


In the first three days of release, more than 1,000 pints were sold at the brewpub on Fourth Street. 


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