Even for fire-wary and -weary Californians like myself, it's been hard to comprehend the destruction of the Camp Fire, the Nov. 8 wildfire that decimated the town of Paradise in Butte County.
That morning I was in Sebastopol, more than 100 miles from Paradise as the smoke flies. We woke up to clear skies. By about 10 a.m. we could see smoke flowing in from the east. My aunt, who had seen pages from books rain down in the ash from last year's Santa Rosa fires, looked stricken. "Oh shit," was all she said. The trauma of that fire is still raw in Sonoma County. She returned a few minutes later, having discovered online that the smoke we were seeing was from Butte County.
By noon, ash was falling in Sebastopol. As I drove home to Humboldt, the sky over the Willits grade was apocalyptic, like climbing into Mordor. It seemed so near, so ominous, that people were pulling off the road to make sure they could pass through U.S. Highway 101.
That, of course, barely registers on the scale of horror that the people of Paradise experienced. As of Dec. 14, CalFire reports that 86 people died. Three firefighters were injured and nearly 14,000 homes burned. The 150,000 acre blaze — since fully contained — also claimed nearly 5,000 businesses and other buildings.
What does this have to do with beer? Well, before the shock had settled in for many of us, the folks at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the Chico-based heavyweight craft brewer, announced it would release Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, with 100 percent of proceeds going to benefit the survivors of the Camp Fire. In an open letter to the worldwide brewing community, Sierra Nevada asked for help. It asked suppliers to donate materials, asked other breweries to brew the recipe and asked distributors to donate their supply line. "It was a big ask," the company said in a press release, "and we never could have anticipated the response."
With a speed and scale that rivaled the fire, more than 1,400 breweries signed onto Resilience. This massive effort, they predict, will yield 4.2 million pints. Supporting the cause, unsurprisingly, is Humboldt County. Six local breweries have signed on to produce Resilience IPA and it's already available in tap rooms around the county.
For Tera Spohr, Mad River Brewing Co.'s Sales and Marketing Director, this effort had special significance. Her parents lost their home in the Camp Fire. "It will take time to heal, but right now people need a sense of normalcy to be able to begin that process," she said. "We hope our contribution to this project helps to get people back on their feet and out of the cold, that's my greatest hope for the people of the community I called home."
Mad River Brewing Co.'s Resilience, based on the original recipe, is set to be available at the Blue Lake Tap Room (101 Taylor Way) starting Jan. 4. Check the brewery's Facebook page for event details. (For licensing reasons, those using the recipe, name and logo for Resilience can only serve it in on tap. Growler fills are OK, though.)
Resilience IPA is already on tap at the Lost Coast Brewery tap room (1600 Sunset Drive, Eureka) and cafe (617 Fourth St., Eureka). Lost Coast also stuck to the original recipe and, although its launch event has already gone by, it's offering $1 pints to people who have a Paradise address on their I.D.
Eel River Brewing Company (1777 Alamar Way, Fortuna) and Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave., McKinleyville) are also pouring Resilience and expect to have it available for a few weeks.
Redwood Curtain Brewing Co. (550 S G St., Arcata and 1595 Myrtle Ave., Eureka) brewed its Resilience on Dec. 14 "with a twist," according to a Facebook post. Folks at RCBC didn't return a call by deadline but expect that one to be on tap soon.
And finally, The Booth Brewing Co. is also making a Resilience beer — but it's doing it a little differently. Since The Booth doesn't have a tap room yet, it has developed its own Resilience recipe — a red ale — and released it in cans. Decorated with the company's familiar quirky art, the cans are available in Humboldt, the Bay Area, Merced and Fresno.
So raise a glass of Resilience this holiday with friends and family and help the community of Paradise recover.