There is a story behind each Ales for ALS™ brew. Every beer from the program – which benefits the essential research to end Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) at the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) – reflects the passion of a brewer both for their craft and for helping a great cause.
For many brewers in the program, the drive to help comes from a deeply personal place – not just to support a good cause, but also because their own lives have been touched by ALS. Many Ales for ALS™ beers are brewed in honor of a family member or loved one who passed from the disease, or who is currently battling it.
In celebration of this year’s crop of Ales for ALS™ beers, we spoke to some of the brewers in the program about their personal ALS stories, and how they inspired them to get involved – and the beers themselves. Today we’re joined by Ford Dodd and Daniel “Rusty” Barker of Fuquay, NC’s Oaklyn Springs Brewery.
ALS TDI: To start off, could you a little bit about yourself and sort of your history with beer and what you do at Oaklyn Springs?
Ford Dodd: All right, well, I'm Ford Dodd, I'm assistant head brewer here at Oaklyn Springs. I've been in beer for a long time. I was a chef before that, but, I've always been into beer, home brewing, and stuff like that. I spent four years at Mikkeller, San Francisco, helped open that place up, and then spent a good bit of time as the cellar master there, and then came out to North Carolina. I started working at Bond Brothers and then headed over here once one Rusty got hired. We'd been homebrewing together for about three years, working on stuff while we worked at Bond to build toward something like this place. I've sold a bunch of Ales for ALS™ Brews at Bond Brothers, and I helped to brew one of the early batches at Faction back in my San Francisco days.
ALS TDI: How has ALS touched your life personally?
Ford: My mom has frontotemporal dementia and ALS, they kind of go hand in hand. And it's definitely been touching my life. We did find out it's not genetic, so less worry for me, but yeah, it's kind of just degrading her musculature across her body. She's getting weaker and it's had a huge effect. Her left hand looks like my great grandma's hands already. And she's only 62. So, it’s accelerating.
We found out about the dementia maybe a year and a half ago. And then we got the ALS diagnosis shortly after that. We didn't know when we did last year's Ales for ALS™ Beer, but we were on our way to that diagnosis at that point.
ALS TDI: But you'd already been involved for it with Ales for ALS™ for a while before you found that out, right? How did that change your perspective on the program?
Ford: As a bartender at Bond Brothers, I sold a lot of their Ales for ALS™ beers. Bitter Parks Is the name of their Ales for ALS™ beer, after their friend Parks. And I'd done a little bit back in San Francisco sold a bunch of Ales for ALS™ beer at Mikkeller Bar, and also helped brew a 2013 or 2014 Faction batch of Ales for ALS™ beer. That was the first time I heard of the program.
Now I've learned a lot more about ALS and what it what it entails, what it does to a person and just what that the diagnosis can mean. And it's made me want to do even more with this with this program to help people if we can.
ALS TDI: Daniel, you had a history with the program as well, right?
Daniel Barker: I got involved through Whit Baker. Whit's a good friend in the industry. We both worked at Bond Brothers in the past. He reached out to us last year and said, hey, I'm looking for participants. Would you guys be interested? And it was just to us, it was an appealing opportunity to me as a brewer. I was just excited to be a part of the program because you guys do the hop blend. That's a really exciting part of the project for us. And looking at all the other breweries across the US that do it, it's exciting to be a part of that.
I would say that we didn't put the most effort into it last year because we were busy with a lot of things. But the fact that Ford has become directly, personally involved with it, and I know Ford's mom because we're friends, it puts more of an incentive into us wanting to do more with it. And I think that the same could be said for our owners here. So, we're willing and hopeful that we can come up with some more creative ideas for how to push the program or advertise a little bit better this year.
ALS TDI: Can you tell us about this year’s beer?
Daniel: It’ll probably be a repeat of the same year that we did last year. Hazy IPAs tends to be the best sellers here at our taproom. We're a pretty small brewery. If we're just going to throw something into production with a lot of hops, it's going to be a Hazy IPA because it's going to sell the best of the best chance of making money for the program. So, it'll be probably like a seven to seven and a half percent IPA, called Amateur Hypnotist. This will be our second year making it. It'll be the same recipe loaded full of oats, and just with the different hop blend for this year.
To learn more about Oaklyn Springs Brewery, click here, and keep an eye out for the date for this year’s Brewfest for ALS in Raleigh, NC, coming soon. To learn more about ALS TDI’s research to end ALS, click here.