This Sunday at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, beer lovers can help grant a child’s wish while crossing a few beers off their own wish lists.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the brewery will host “Whales for Wishes,” a bottle share and fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina. In 2007, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted a wish for Betsy and Jim Pence, an area couple whose son had just received treatment for a brain tumor. Having seen firsthand how much the trip meant to their son, the couple wanted to provide a similar experience for another child years later.
Being beer lovers and homebrewers, the Pences were considering ways to raise funds through beer when a friend introduced them to Mark Iafrate, a co-founder of a beer trading app called The Beer Exchange. Last year, the company worked with the Pences to hold a bottle share at OMB, where they raised around $500 by selling raffle tickets and accepting donations at the brewery.
“For us, it was just a win-win,” said Iafrate. “It was people who love good beer trying to raise money for a good cause. We had a really good reception to it. People not only had a good time at the bottle share, but they liked the fact that the donations were going to a great cause.”
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They had requests to bring the event back again this year, and did so under the name “Whales for Wishes.” They have also set a goal of $6,000, which is the average amount of money it takes to grant a wish to a child.
They are halfway to that goal, thanks to online donations and raffle entries for various rare beers (known as “whales” in beer geek parlance). With a $5 donation at www.whalesforwishes.com, donors are entered into a raffle for baskets containing rare beers from different regions (you can specify whether you want to be entered for an East Coast, West Coast or Midwest basket). Since Iafrate and his colleagues at The Beer Exchange are no strangers to trading beer, they donated some of their own bottles from previous trades. Some of the bottles came from people who use The Beer Exchange to trade beer as well.
“We have an awesome community,” said Iafrate. “We had a lot of people come through and donate a lot of the beer that we’re raffling off.”
Online donations to enter the raffle can be made until 4 p.m. Friday, April 22. Donations can also be made via cash or check during the bottle share at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, where there will be additional boxes to bid on. You do not have to be present at Sunday’s event to win the raffle if your name is chosen. The event is free to attend, but they are asking for a suggested donation of $5.
For Iafrate, the event stands out because it unites two communities.
“It’s one of the best mixes of people I’ve seen in a long time at the bottle share,” said Iafrate of last year’s attendees. “There were some people who knew a lot about The Beer Exchange who were really into the beer scene in Charlotte, and then there were other people who were there simply to support Make-A-Wish or Jim and Betsy and they had never heard of beer trading or bottle shares.”
If you’re in the latter camp, make sure to check out the accompanying sidebar for more information on bottle shares. The Beer Exchange also has its own guide to bottle share etiquette here: http://thebeerexchange.io/bottle-share-etiquette.html
What’s a Bottle Share?
As the name suggests, a bottle share is an event where beer enthusiasts get together to share bottles of beer. Sometimes these beers are more limited in nature, but not always. If you’ve never been to a bottle share, here are a few things to expect:
▪ These are fairly informal events. If there’s a bottle open, you’re usually OK to pour yourself a small sample (2-4 ounces or so). If the bottle’s not open, wait for the person who brought it to crack it. Better yet: walk around with your bottle, introduce yourself and offer samples to others.
▪ Be ready to talk beer. Beer geeks love to tell you about the beer they’re sharing: what barrels it was aged in, how it compares to other beers – even which beers they traded away to land it.
▪ Sample widely, but don’t overindulge. Bottle shares allow you to sample a wide variety of beers. That said, it’s easy to overdo it considering many of the beers will undoubtedly be high in alcohol. Be wary of how much you’ve had and be sure to have a plan to get home safely.
▪ Consider getting into trading. It’s fairly easy to trade beers brewed in North Carolina for beers from other markets. To learn more and see what beers people are looking for, visit http://thebeerexchange.io.
▪ Don’t go all Captain Ahab. Yes, the “Moby Dick” seafarer set his sights on one elusive whale, and he paid for it. While it’s fun to try rare beers, don’t dismiss a beer just because it’s not as rare as the next.