Brewers unite to help ease human suffering caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine
Poland’s craft beer community has come together with a string of initiatives to try and help alleviate the human catastrophe caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although only just over a week old, the conflict has prompted breweries across the country to launch charitable actions or brew fund-raising beers.
Paweł Leszczyński, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Poland’s craft scene, told TFN: “Ukrainians are our friends, and there’s a great number who work in our breweries here. As empathic people that care about the community, we’ve automatically tried to help where we can, even if sometimes we’ve not been entirely sure how we can.”
Nonetheless, with the confusion and shock that marked the initial days of the invasion now wearing off, brewers and beer figures are now viewing the war with a more focused clarity.
For Leszczyński, the organizer of the bi-annual Warsaw Beer Festival, that has meant pledging to narrow in on helping Ukrainian cancer patients at his forthcoming event later in March: “Previously we’ve joined forces with the White Whale store and the Rak’n’roll charity to auction rare beers to benefit cancer patients; this time around proceeds will go to Ukraine’s cancer sufferers.”
Other initiatives will also be launched, says Leszczyński, once the situation becomes clearer. “Things are changing fast, so for sure we will adapt – I’m certain, for instance, income generated from certain beers will be sent directly to the needy.”
Partially, this is sure to come from the Brew For Ukraine project, a “beer world movement” founded in Poland to support Ukraine.
Announcing their action yesterday on Facebook, organizers wrote: “At times like these, the beer community rallies around to show how strong we are… and we hope many breweries, large and small, will join our action.”
Functioning as an advisory body, Brew For Ukraine seeks to offer help and guidance to breweries regarding concepts and labelling as more and more strive to launch beers to raise funds.
“What can they do?” ask organizers. “Get in touch with us, brew a beer of their design, and then donate profits to the Ukrainian charity of their choice. It’s that simple.”
Established as a volunteer platform to promote the humanitarian effort, its debut has already been warmly received.
However, even before this breweries were already stepping up to the plate. Regarded as one of the top artisan breweries in the country, Browar Zakładowy hit headlines at the weekend after releasing an IPA titled Putin Ch** (Putin is a D**k).
Born as a spontaneous reaction to current events, the brewery decided to put out a few kegs in their two Lublin pubs, U Fotografa and Wielokran.
Writing on social media, the brewery announced: “We can’t look calmly at what is happening to our Eastern neighbours, so we decided to help in our own little way. From today, Putin Ch** will be on tap in our bars.”
Explaining the name – which has already become a common refrain around bars, football grounds, protest marches and other public gatherings – the brewers explained: “It was simply the first phrase to come to our mind when we saw what this man was doing.”
But despite the festering sense of outrage, the brewers are hopeful that this can be harnessed to fulfil a greater good.
“We’re hopeful that something positive can come from this anger – after all, beer is meant to connect people.”
Though originally intended as just a one-off weekend push, the brewery raised over PLN 5,000 in just two-days of sales.
“During the weekend we were literally flooded with messages and emails from around the country asking about bottles and kegs for general sale. When we started this campaign, we did not plan on any of this, but having seen the response we decided that this beer should go to other pubs and shops.”
As things stand, Putin Ch** has now been shipped to over 40 pubs, bars and stores across the country, including twelve in the Polish capital.
Expecting to sell out fast, the brewery has already promised that a second batch will be ready within three weeks.
Others, too, have joined the fight on the beer front. Widely celebrated for their wacky, experimental beers, Funky Fluid pre-empted the hostilities by entering a collaboration with Kyiv’s Rebrew brewery to produce Kyiv Cake, a ‘gelato ice cream sour’ designed to evoke memories of babushka’s cherry-nut cake.
“We will not save the world with beer, but we can make it a little better,” say Funky Fluid. With the price lowered to just PLN 10, the brewery have further promised to handover all turnover from this beer to help those affected by the war.
Meanwhile, Grzegorz Ziemian, owner of Wrocław’s Browar Stu Mostów, told TFN that his two bars would be donating all revenue from the sale of its Double Hoptart beer to the Ukrainian army.
He added: “In addition, we have decided to donate all income from the sale of WRCLW pils beer in our taproom and bistro to support civilians who are fleeing to Poland.”
Whilst scores of breweries are expected to follow suit and create their own liquid tributes to Ukraine, others have chosen to give money first. In Pruszkow, for instance, the Otwarte Bramy brewpub donated all net income from their operations last Sunday.
According to Leszczyński, this is the tip of the iceberg. “I know some brewers that are selling kegs for just PLN 1 and then giving everything else they would have earned to charity. But it’s important to remember, that whatever they’re doing officially, keep in mind that a huge number of breweries are doing things without press and publicity.”
That this has been done at a time when the sector is still dusting itself down from Covid makes it all the more admirable.
“We’re all firmly aware that there are more important things than money and beer,” Leszczyński says. “We feel more bonded I think, across the world. We’re not Russians, we’re not Ukrainians, we’re not Poles. We’re a global community that supports peace and happiness. When we drink, we don’t fight and argue.
“Aggression is for the weak. There aren’t words to truly capture my message, but I guess I’ll have to try: f**k those that want to tear us apart. Don’t obey them. Drink good beer.”