Restaurant News & Reviews

At third annual event, rare brews make wishes come true

The Beer Exchange co-founder Mark Iafrate (left) started the Whales for Wishes fundraiser with Betsy and Jim Pence, whose son received a trip through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The bottle share returns to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery on Sunday, April 30.
The Beer Exchange co-founder Mark Iafrate (left) started the Whales for Wishes fundraiser with Betsy and Jim Pence, whose son received a trip through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The bottle share returns to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery on Sunday, April 30. The Beer Exchange

It ended as most bottle shares do, with people taking photos of rows upon rows of empty bottles. In that boneyard of more than 100 empty bottles were more than a few “whales” – beers so limited and rare that beer geeks chase after them like Captain Ahab himself.

The beers at last year’s Whales for Wishes event at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery were spectacular indeed, but more impressive was that the event raised enough money to grant a child a wish through Make-A-Wish Central and Western NC.

Now The Beer Exchange, the local beer trading app that puts on the event, is aiming to grant wishes for two area children. The third annual Whales for Wishes will return to The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery from noon-5 p.m. on Sunday, April 30.

Mark Iafrate, co-founder of The Beer Exchange, started the event after being approached by Betsy and Jim Pence, whose son received a trip through the Make-A-Wish organization. Wanting to help provide a trip to another child, they talked to Iafrate about auctioning off beers they brought back from the West Coast. The inaugural event raised around $500. Last year, they raised more than $7,000.

“It felt fantastic,” Iafrate said. “It’s not every day that you feel like you’ve made a tangible impact in the community. It was a goal that we weren’t sure we were going to hit, and the Charlotte craft beer community came out in full force.”

This year’s goal of $15,000 is more than twice last year’s, but Iafrate thinks they can hit it through donations and the rare beer raffles, which he said are “even bigger and better” this year. Packages include beers from breweries like Cigar City Brewing, Cycle Brewing, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, The Lost Abbey, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Founders Brewing Co., Funky Buddha Brewery, Tree House Brewing and more.

Tickets for the event at OMB on April 30 are $20 and allow for entry into the bottle share, as well as five raffle tickets to enter into the various gift baskets (two of which will only be open to people attending the bottle share). The share will take place in the brewery’s private events space. All donations and proceeds from the event will go to Make-A-Wish Central and Western NC. For more information on the event or the rare beer raffles, visit www.whalesforwishes.com.

Last year’s event brought together people who are plugged into the Charlotte beer scene and others who had never been to a bottle share before, according to Iafrate. If you’re unfamiliar with bottle shares, The Beer Exchange has a guide to bottle share etiquette at http://thebeerexchange.io/bottle-share-etiquette.html.

Iafrate always brings out special bottles to shares like this, but plans to bring even more since he’ll soon be moving across the country.

“We’re making it a point to bring out some really fantastic beers to the bottle share,” said Iafrate. “I’m going to be moving out to San Francisco in the coming months and I’m trying to get rid of a bunch of the beer in my cellar. I think there’s going to be just a lot of really fantastic bottles at the share itself for people to enjoy.”

Event of the week

Tap Old Town Craft Beer Festival

The fourth annual event returns to Millstone Pizza and Taphouse (121 Caldwell St., Suite 103, Rock Hill, S.C.) this Saturday, when about 25 breweries will pour samples of more than 60 different beers. Tickets can be purchased at Millstone Pizza in advance for $25 for general admission or $35 for VIP (prices go up to $30 and $40 the day of). General admission tickets provide for unlimited sampling, a commemorative tasting glass and live music from 6-9 p.m., while VIP tickets grant entry at 5 p.m. and access to a buffet.

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