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Slowly all the vendors -- every single vendor -- lined up.

Friends Giving Collaboration

The best-kept secret around the brewery is that Chris Henke is one of the most generous individuals here. Hank’s our moral center. He’d give you the shirt off his back and then say, “Hey. Would you like a brewery, too?”

That’s why, when Double Nickel came up with the idea of a collaboration between four area breweries to raise money for needy families during the holidays, for Hank, “it was an easy yes.”

Friends Giving Hero ShotFrom a beer name brainstorming meeting at Double Nickel, the idea for a regional collaboration benefit beer sprung, benefiting Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, Sacred Heart Church in Camden, and Philabundance in Philly.

“When the idea of Friends Giving came up there was no question that we wanted to make it a collaboration,” says John Dalsey, Marketing Director at Double Nickel. “When we talked about different breweries to reach out to, we knew we wanted to collaborate with breweries that we were not only friendly with but ones whose beers we really appreciate.”

Double Nickel co-owner Drew Perry went to high school with Hank, so there was very little question about including Cape May.

“Drew, Brian, Chris, and I all happen to be from Haddonfield as well so there was a connection between Double Nickel and Cape May there,” John says. “Each of the breweries that are a part of this project are also very involved in their local communities, which was important to us because we want to grow this into a bigger annual initiative.”

When news got to Hank, there weren’t many details — only a vague idea to raise money for the holidays.

“All the details I had at the time were that Double Nickel wanted to do a collaboration with us, Tonewood, and Urban Village,” Hank says, “and all of the profits were going to go to the community. That was a no-brainer. We signed up on the spot.

IMG_3193“One of our Core Values is ‘Be a Good Neighbor’, and this definitely speaks to that.”

Eventually, they decided upon an IPA, but the actual recipe was still up in the air. Everyone met up at Urban Village and decided that, instead of a recipe, everyone would simply bring in whatever hops they wanted and make it a potluck.

“We decided that every brewery would bring some hops,” he says, “we didn’t know what hops they’d bring, and we’d figure it out from there. To me, that sounded like a great idea.”

While it was certainly a new way for breweries to design a beer, it reminded Hank of his days as a homebrewer.

“Sometimes, you just make it up on the fly,” he says.

One of the most gratifying and surprising turn of events is that so many of our suppliers signed on to this project, as well. We reached out to them and were stunned that so many of them jumped on board. Mid-Atlantic Packaging donated boxes, Rabbit Hill Farms donated grain, Country Malt Group donated malt, Zuckerman Honickman donated cans, Can Source donated shrink sleeves, Paktech donated can carriers, and Modtek donated labels. Even the distribution chain in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — Kramer Beverage and Ritchie and Page Distributing — took a cut off their margin.

Drew Holding 4-packWhile we say that the proceeds for this beer are going to charity, but with so much of the materials and ingredients donated, practically the entire gross from this release will go to needy families in the area.

“Slowly all the vendors — every single vendor — lined up,” Hank said, “which means that there’ll be so much more profit to donate. Without the suppliers donating everything, the profit could be slim, but with Double Nickel donating the brewer and packaging time — they’re not asking for anything — so everything that went into this beer is basically free. Everyone’s helping out to make this beer happen. I think that’s the best part of this collaboration.”

And it didn’t take a lot for our vendors to sign on, either.

“When John Dalsey at Double Nickel contacted me about this initially,” says Scott Egan of Modtek, “I was particularly intrigued by the participants — the fact is we do the can labels for all four breweries and the fact that they found each other to do this collaboration is so exciting. Then, adding in what it was all about, the charities involved… we were just thrilled to be included! Although we played a small part, honestly, to work with the group, to help bring this to fruition is truly rewarding for ModTek!”

Rabbit Hill jumped in without a second thought, as well. As we’ve mentioned before, Hillary is a rock star.

“When we were approached about donating toward the malt bill for this beer,” Hillary says, “we didn’t take long to decide that we definitely wanted to be part of the project. As food producers, we have always been bothered by food insecurity in our community and, over the years, we have donated produce directly to food banks. As we have transitioned our farm away from vegetable production, those direct donations became less possible, but this project gave us a new way to support the organizations that are collecting and distributing items to those in need.”

IMG_3198So, how did this “potluck” brew turn out?

“Whenever you have a bunch of brewers show up with a bunch of random hops,” Hank says, “it’s a risk.”

The hops could compete with one another, but with the IPA style and American aroma hops as their guide, everyone showed up with their 88 pounds of hops. With Nelson Sauvin, Apollo, Mosaic, Idaho 7, and Amarillo, the beer turned out surprisingly well.

“All of the hops worked really well with each other, and we’ve got a great beer,” Hank says, “and it easily could have gone the other way. It could have been a mess of a beer, but it turned out to be a really good beer. The guys at Double Nickel did a great job brewing it, cellaring it, and packaging it.”

Double Nickel is happy with it, too.

“We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out,” John of Double Nickel says. “The fact that it was a ‘potluck’ style makes it all the more rewarding. I had some doubts during the initial planning meeting when the idea first came up, but I think it’s an added collaborative element that makes this beer that much more special, and also attest to the collective brewing experience amongst Dave, Hank, Eli, and Drew. Rather than going back and forth over emails to come up with a recipe, everyone had to make their own judgment call on what they wanted to bring to the beer, and then together, on brew day, we decided how to best use them in harmony.”

John compares it to cooking.

IMG_3191“It would seem that some of the best meals are made when recipes are tweaked or adjusted in the moment,” he says, “and we were able to capture that magic by brewing this IPA ‘potluck’ style.”

Hopefully, this won’t be a one-and-done deal. We’re looking to make this an annual initiative.

“I think we all hope that we can grow this in the coming years,” Hank says. “It already grew bigger than we expected with all the suppliers jumping on board, so if we can brew more, or add breweries, or just get more people collaborating, the goal is that this is the first of a really cool annual tradition.”

The beer releases from Double Nickel’s tasting room this week, with a party scheduled on Saturday, November 10th at the Tap Room and Grill in Haddonfield. Urban Village has a party planned on Thursday, November 15th in their tasting room, and Haddon Heights in Progress will be hosting Hip’s Giving — an Eagles tailgate party and farmers market on November 15.

Friends Giving will be on shelves soon, wherever Double Nickel is found. Be sure to get your hands on this beer. You’ll be glad you did — not only will you have an innovative and delicious brew, you’ll be helping food insecure families throughout South Jersey and Philadelphia.