Restaurant News & Reviews

Birdsong Brewing partners with aquaponic gardeners to help kids in juvenile jail

Birdsong Brewing Co.

Thanks to a chance encounter, Birdsong Brewing’s popular Doin’ Thyme seasonal will benefit people that are actually doing time.

While at The Company Store in NoDa a few weeks ago, brewery sales representative Jenny Sassman ran into Sam Fleming, vice president of 100 Gardens. The local nonprofit sets up aquaponic farming programs in area schools and correctional facilities.

“We grow edible freshwater fish like tilapia and catfish and then we send the water from those tanks into hydroponic systems that grow plants without soil,” Fleming said. “So the fish are fertilizing plants, and then the plants filter out the water and return clean water back to the fish. So you’re growing vegetables and fish and it doesn’t require any soil.”

What does this have to do with beer? Fleming and Sassman began to discuss having 100 Gardens grow the thyme used in Doin’ Thyme. It seemed a perfect partnership, since the brewery had wanted to start using locally-grown thyme in the beer.

It wasn’t until later that Fleming had an epiphany.

“The beer’s called Doin’ Thyme, and I’m teaching in a prison with guys that are doing time,” said Fleming. “What if they grew the thyme, and what if Birdsong donated a portion of the sales to 100 Gardens so that we can expand and improve the programming?”

That’s exactly what the brewery and nonprofit have agreed to do. While 100 Gardens wasn’t able to turn around the thyme for the first batch, they should be able to supply future batches of the beer, which will be out through late May. Fleming said they will likely be able to grow the thyme through area schools as well as at Concord’s Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center, a juvenile correctional facility where Fleming teaches youth about aquaponics.

After Fleming told Birdsong Brewing co-founder Chris Goulet about the “doing time” connection, Goulet knew they had to embrace the “weird kismet.”

“When we sat down with them, we thought it was a really cool mission,” Goulet said. “It’s a big challenge. How do you teach these young kids sustainable gardening so that they can grow their own food?”

Birdsong Brewing released Doin’ Thyme on draft and in cans at the brewery Thursday, and they will soon be available in area beer stores. In addition to thyme, the Belgian-style witbier is also brewed with coriander and lemon peel. This is the fifth year that the brewery has brewed Doin’ Thyme, and the second year they have canned it. This year, the beer gets a new label that, among other changes, features the 100 Gardens logo.

A portion of the proceeds from Doin’ Thyme will benefit the organization, which was founded by the late Charlotte architect Ron Morgan as a rebuilding effort after an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. Now the nonprofit has aquaponic gardens in schools and correctional facilities throughout the Charlotte area. Later this month, 100 Gardens will open Seeds on 36th at 200 E. 36th St., in NoDa, where they will sell the equipment needed to build aquaponic and hydroponic gardening.

Event of the week

Can Release at High Branch Brewing Co.

When: 4-10 p.m. Friday.

Where: High Branch Brewing Co. (325 McGill Ave NW, Ste 148, Concord).

What: If you have yet to make it out to High Branch Brewing Co., this Friday would be a great time to do so. The nanobrewery, which is located in Concord’s historic Gibson Mill, will release three beers in cans: Promise Ring, a hazy IPA; Pounder, a hazy pale ale; and Yucatan Stout, an imperial stout brewed with cinnamon, vanilla and habanero peppers. Twenty-five ounce cans of Promise Ring and Yucatan Stout will be $8 each, and Pounder cans will be $7 each. There’s a limit of two of each can per person per day, and you can get a dollar off each can if you buy more than one.