Dakin Humane Society’s Barks & Brews fundraiser at Fort Hill Brewery in Easthampton, Massachusetts, is a “parade of dogs all day long,” says director of development and marketing Stacey Price. Now in its fourth year, animal lovers spend the day with their dogs, enjoying food trucks and home-made dog treats, training demonstrations, splash zones where dogs can cool off, and of course, beer. Price says tickets sell out for the event each year, and it raises about $32,000 for the shelter in a single afternoon—proving that pets and beer are a winning combination when it comes to fundraising.
Barks & Brews has become so popular in the last four years that Dakin even recently launched a second event, Paws & Pints, at another nearby brewery. But while Barks and Brews is 21-plus, Pints and Paws is for animal lovers of all ages, with face painting and a DIY tie-dye bandanas station for the younger crowd, says Price. The entire family can experience hiking trails and pick-your-own-fruit farms on the property, as well.
“It’s not just about having a good time with your friends and having a free beer,” Price says, “it’s the activities that we bring into that event—like the splash zone, the food for your dogs, the nail trims, the family photos with your dogs—so that it’s truly like human and dog bonding experience.”
Like Dakin Humane Society, other shelters and rescues across the country have been partnering with breweries, tap houses and wineries to host pet-friendly fundraisers to support their causes. Price says these events are a fun and engaging way for people to support a cause they are passionate about—helping animals in need—while spending time with their two- or four-legged family members.
In Hendersonville, North Carolina, Lisa McDonald and Joe Dina took the concept a step further, opening Sanctuary Brewing Company with philanthropy in mind. Brewery profits help fund humanitarian projects, as well as their own Sweet Bear Rescue Farm, a safe haven for roughly 40 foster animals and permanent residents, including dogs, cats, chickens and turkeys. The brewery also provides a venue for local shelters and rescue groups to hold fundraising events.
“Whether or not it’s listening to live music, or knowing that a part of your beer sales is going to help an animal or a person in need, or being able to bring your dog with you, or just relaxing and drinking a beer, they all tie in together, because they’re all feel good propositions,” McDonald explains. “You’re either experiencing something positive or you’re giving back in a positive way. And I think people definitely resonate [with] all of those things.”
Leah Hill, president at Pours 4 Paws, says brewery fundraisers are an easy way to get people involved in the rescue community. She and her husband Daniel started Pours 4 Paws in the Denver, Colorado, area as a way to give back after adopting their two dogs, Porter and Prost.
The organization partners with breweries and shelters to host supply drives and other fundraising events and education. Hill says Pours 4 Paws’ goal is to make the funding effort and collaboration more seamless, so rescues can focus on helping the animals, instead of worrying about funding.
“There are absolutely so many ways to get involved in animal rescue and give back and Pours 4 Paws is just another outside of the box way to do so,” Hill says.
But maybe the most literal collaboration between rescue and beer happens at Fido’s, a taphouse in Tigard, Oregon, just outside of Portland. Owner and founder Scott Porter says Fido’s hosts 40 taps of beer, wine and cider, as well as anywhere from four to seven rescue dogs looking for homes. Some of the taphouse proceeds benefit Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals, the foster-based program the dogs come from before reaching Fido’s. Porter estimates that Fido’s—between bar revenue and adoption fees—has raised close to $20,000 for the rescue organization.
Porter, who is “fanatically in love with dogs,’ says the taproom serves as a museum to dogs, with all of the decorations being canine-themed. He says his dream is for other businesses to adopt a model like he has at Fido’s, whether it’s having space for fundraisers or actually working with animals.
Patrons can enjoy their drinks and pay a small fee—which goes back to Oregon Friends—to play with the dogs and, hopefully, adopt them. However, potential adopters must wait at least three days from their visit to apply, to prevent any clouded thoughts after enjoying the taps.
But, Fido’s mission doesn’t stop there. Porter says the taphouse hosts events for other rescues, shelters and dog-centered welfare groups as well. Fido’s rents the space out for free, advertises the events, and donates portions of event proceeds back to the particular fundraising group.
“I would love to see other bar owners incorporate fostering shelter dogs,” Porter says.
Although brewery fundraisers tend to focus on dogs, the Montgomery County Community Cat Coalition in Maryland recently hosted its first “Whiskers and Wine” fundraiser at the Olney Winery, raising about $3,000 for trap-neuter-return efforts in the county.
MCC3 President Jan Armstrong says that part of the success is that participants don’t actually need to drink alcohol to have a good time. “It’s just a fun, relaxed setting and a chance to talk about not only the TNR and the rescue organizations, but just ‘how’re you doing?’ It’s a chance to connect.”
Hill says brew events benefit everyone: welfare groups, breweries and supporters. “I've definitely seen an increase in the area of breweries wanting to work with rescues,” she says.