Wrapping up its seventh year, the Ales for ALS™ program has now raised over 3 million dollars for ALS research at the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI).
Ales for ALS™ was started in 2013 by Cheryl Hanses Smith, whose family has a gene mutation that causes a familial form of ALS, and her husband Mike Smith, a third generation hop farmer in Yakima, WA.
Together they developed the Ales for ALS™ concept. Participating breweries are offered an experimental hop blend created by Yakima Chief Hops, free of charge, and in return breweries donate a portion of the sales from each beer brewed with these hops to ALS TDI.
In its initial year the Ales for ALS™ program raised $130,000, and now raises nearly $500,000 each year. All of the proceeds go towards research being done at ALS TDI to find treatments and a cure for ALS.
“The dollars raised by the Ales for ALS program directly enable the assessment of potential ALS treatments in our lab. At the current fundraising levels, this program pays for two comprehensive treatment assessments yearly,” said Fernando Vieira, the Chief Scientific Officer at ALS TDI. “We are so grateful to Cheryl and Mike for their leadership and to the brewing community for their participation.”
As the popularity of the program has increased, participation in the program has also expanded each year. The program started with 33 breweries in 2013 and now has 198 in 2019. California has the most breweries participating, with 54 breweries signed up in 2019, the Ales for ALS™ program has participating breweries in 33 states. There was even two international breweries, YOHO Brewing Company in Japan and LOC Brewery in the Netherlands in 2019.
“Now breweries across the country hear about the program and they reach out proactively,” says Mike Smith. “They want to join the effort because they know someone who has been, or is battling ALS. This disease is not as rare as it’s made out to be.”
Megan Kosciak, an Events and Programs Manager at ALS TDI, said “We are always trying to expand, and having a participant in each of the 50 states is a goal that we have set for ourselves that we think we could achieve soon.”
“It’s usually an easy sell to breweries,” said Mike Shannon, a project manager at ALS TDI. “And it’s a great way for us to engage the public that might not be informed about ALS.”
For brewers interested in joining the Ales for ALS™ program they can contact the team at email@example.com. Invitations for 2020 will be sent out around mid-January.
“It’s as simple as getting free, really cool, unique hops, and then brewing a beer, selling it and donating back. It’s a process they already know how to do,” said Megan. “And it opens them up to a new community of brewers and supporters they might not have even know is out there.”
Every year the experimental hop blend is generously donated by B.T. Loftus Ranches, the Smith family’s farm, and shipped for free by Yakima Chief Hops. Yakima Chief Hops is a 100 percent grower owned network of family hop farms. B.T. Loftus Ranches, has been around since 1932 and is a proud member of this network.
Along with launching Ales for ALS™ in 2013, the Smith family also opened Bale Breaker, a brewery and taproom located on the family farm. The brewery is now run by Mike and Cheryl’s kids, Kevin, Patrick, Meghann and Meghann’s husband Kevin Quinn.
Each year Bale Breaker hosts an Ales for ALS™ kickoff party on the brewery lawn. Bale Breaker also releases their own special brewed Ales for ALS™ beer, Bubba’s Brew, annually in honor of their Uncle Scott who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.
“I can feel a change,” says Cheryl Smith. “ALS TDI is making a difference. Everyone who works at ALS TDI is passionate about finding a treatment and cure. Supporting their work just feels right.”
To learn more about the Ales for ALS™ program please visit www.alesforals.com.