The city of Portland, Oregon is renowned for its quirkiness and for a playful sense of independence from the mainstream. Yet, even though its residents can be difficult to pin down, people do tend to come together for a few things: the Great Outdoors, outstanding cuisine, and, especially, craft beer. Since craft beer scene really started blowing up in the late-90s, Portland has always been at the forefront. Home to both old standbys in the scene and brash newcomers, the city is host to numerous world-class breweries which keep the fervent population well sated and the enthusiasm overflowing. With the influence that beer has in the city, it is good to know that it is not just bringing people together for happy hours and brewery tours, but also for good causes.
Tapping into the local enthusiasm for craft beer in Portland, an organization called New Avenues for Youth (NAFY) puts on a yearly fundraiser called Brews for New Avenues. NAFY is a nonprofit organization that helps to address issues of homelessness for youth aged 14-24 in the Portland area. Unfortunately, along with being an increasingly desirable place to live for so many young people, Portland also has faced a housing crisis. Homeless rates in the city, especially as they relate to young people, have been increasing at higher rates than most similar sized cities.
NAFY was founded in 1997, and in their 20 years of existence they have been able to impact the lives of more than 20,000 foster, at-risk, and homeless youth. The organization is able to offer a wealth of services that address the root causes of homelessness and present solutions. Without a doubt, NAFY has become a force in the Portland area and the organization has been recognized as one of the top nonprofits in the state of Oregon. Along with continually finding ways to broaden their reach and expand their efforts to combat homelessness in the Portland area, the organization has also excelled at finding creative fundraising methods.
Brews for New Avenues was launched in 2012 as a new, annual fundraiser. The idea seemed simple enough: to bring Portland’s beer enthusiasts together to channel their passion into something truly meaningful for the community. Event organizers knew that if they offered something truly special they could start a buzz that would turn their event not only into one of the most successful fundraisers in Portland, but a fun event that people would look forward to attending year after year. To do so, they looked to breweries for support. Across the country and even internationally, some of the best breweries around were willing to donate some of their most special beer to the event. Unique and rare beers were donated to the Brews event for a special tasting event that culminates in an auction.
August 19, 2017 will be the 6th annual Brews event. The event has grown steadily over time but it has really taken off of late. In its first year, in 2012, the event brought together 400 people to raise $17,000 for NYFA. Compare that to just last year when the event logged nearly twice as many attendees, but brought in a record of over $150,000 in proceeds. The increase is in part due to the increasing visibility of craft beer, but also largely down to the growing reputation of the event as one of the world’s premier craft beer auctions. Every year, the event organizers are able to bring in some of the most sought after beers in the world. For instance, the 2016 event saw a single bottle of beer auctioned off for $3,400 (if you’re curious, it was a bottle of Cantillon Symbioese). With the heightened visibility of the Brews event and the incredible quality of their auction, more and more breweries are willing to donate something special in the effort of joining together to address homelessness. It is a shining example of how a nonprpfit organization can tap into a local passion to really excite people in the effort of supporting their cause.