Ales for ALS™ presents beer lovers with a win-win proposition: drink delicious beer from great breweries while supporting research to end ALS. The program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023, has raised millions of dollars for ALS research, recruited some of the best brewers from around the world, and led to the creation of countless delicious and unique beers.
History of Ales for ALS™
Ales for ALS’™ origins begin with Cheryl Hanses. Cheryl has nine members of her family that have either passed from or are currently living with ALS. Her husband, Mike Smith, is a third generation hop farmer in Yakima, WA; his family has been growing hops since 1932. In 2013, after learning about the ALS Therapy Development Institute’s (ALS TDI) mission to discover effective treatments for the disease, Cheryl and Mike decided to leverage their connections to the hop-growing and beer-brewing communities to help support ALS TDI’s mission.
In 2013 they created Ales for ALS™, a concept where participating breweries would be offered access to an experimental hop blend, free of charge. In exchange, the breweries would brew a special beer with these hops and donate a portion of their beer sales to ALS TDI. Beginning with 33 participating brewers and proceeds totaling $130,000, Ales for ALS™ has grown each year, with more than 290 breweries participating in 2023.
Growth of Ales for ALS™
The names that have been involved in Ales for ALS™ over the years range from small local breweries to some of the biggest craft beer producers in the country, like Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, and New Belgium. In addition to selling their Ales for ALS™ brews, many of these breweries have further supported the program by throwing release parties and regional festivals to spread the word and raise additional funds. One long-running festival put on by Faction Brewing in Alameda, CA, has raised over $500,000 in and of itself over nine years.
While many brewers participate in the program purely to support a great cause, Mike Shannon, the National Director of Ales for ALS™, says that some of the most meaningful connections he’s made over the years are with participants with a deeper connection to ALS.
“We meet a lot of people that are directly affected by ALS,” he says. “People whose father, mother, aunt, uncle, or grandparent passed from ALS or have ALS, and that connection inspired them to join the program and help get the word out there. This is not a rare disease. We even have brewers in the program who are impacted by this disease.”
Impact of Ales for ALS™
10 years in, the Ales for ALS™ program has made a major impact in the fight against ALS. 1300 different brewers, across the US and the world, have participated. They have brewed 200 BBL of beer using 81,000 pounds of hops. Joined by generous sponsors including Untappd, Loftus Ranches Hop Farm, Yakima Chief Hops, and Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, as well as many individual donors, these efforts have raised more than $6.5 million dollars to support ALS research at ALS TDI.
ALS TDI is one of the world’s only nonprofit biotechs and home the most comprehensive labs dedicated only to ALS research. Their mission is to do discover and invent treatments for everyone with ALS and work to advance these drugs to human clinical trials. This mission is supported entirely by donations from the ALS community and through fundraising programs like Ales for ALS™.
In the decade since the program’s founding, Ales for ALS™ funding has helped support many milestones at ALS TDI. These include:
- The launch of the ALS Research Collaborative (ARC), now the longest running natural history study in ALS. Through the ARC study, ALS TDI partners with people with ALS all over the world to gather comprehensive data about the disease – with the ultimate goal of advancing drug discovery.
- The creation of the ARC Data Commons, a cloud-based platform that enables researchers around the world to easily access the comprehensive data collected through ARC.
- The invention of tegoprubart, the first potential ALS treatment invented by a nonprofit to reach human clinical trials. In 2022, this promising treatment successfully completed a phase 2a clinical trial.
- The rigorous testing of more than 500 potential treatments in animal models of ALS – more than any other lab in the world.
Participating in Ales for ALS™
While Ales for ALS™ has come a long way in the past 10 years, there is still more to be done. The program is always looking to recruit new brewers who want to help a great cause – and create delicious beers with a new, unique hop blend each year. In addition, 2023 saw the introduction of a new way to participate.
For years, participation in the program has been limited by the amount of the yearly blend of hops – there are often more willing brewers than hops to supply them with. Now, brewers who can’t access the hop blend, or who do not have time in their tight production schedules to make an additional beer, will still be able support the program. These brewers will have the option to dedicate proceeds from any beer they produce – either a new brew or something from their regular lineup – to the Ales for ALS™ cause. While brewers putting their own unique spin on the year’s hop blend will still be a cornerstone of the Ales for ALS™ brand, Mike says he hopes that this opportunity will open the door to many new brewers.
“Brewers will now have the latitude to brew on their schedule and at their leisure,” he says. “They can make decisions based on whatever beer they might want to brew and however many dollars they'd like to commit.”
Support Ales for ALS™
If you aren’t a brewer, you can still help to support Ales for ALS™ and fund vital research to end ALS Here are just a few easy ways that community members can easily get involved in this effort:
With your help, we can continue to grow this unique program and raise even more funds and awareness for ALS!
To learn more about the Ales for ALS™ program, including where to find a participating brewer near you, visit https://a4a.als.net/.
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