Majority of 70 brewers withdraw from Wicked Weed event for charity in protest of big beer
"At the end of the day, this is just beer," Wicked Weed co-founder Walt Dickinson stressed in light of the recent outcry.
Even so, "just beer" can spark a fiery response. More than half of the 70 craft breweries invited to the fourth annual Funkatorium Invitational have pulled out.
That event is scheduled for July 8 at Wicked Weed's Funkatorium in Arden.
"We've obviously had a lot of people drop out because there's a lot of pressure on them," Dickinson said. "And even if maybe, privately, they felt like they'd like to come, they're worried about the consumers, and I get that."
Haw River Farmhouse Ales of Alamance County withdrew from the invitational. Owner Ben Woodward said he wanted to make a statement against AB InBev, the world's largest brewing company.
"One of the problems is that there are forces in the brewing industry that put an awful lot of money that keep us from doing what we're doing every day," Woodward explained. "And when those forces take control of friends of ours, we have to make some tough decisions."
The trickle down effect might impact Eblen Charities, which gets 100 percent of the proceeds from the event. Executive Director Bill Murdock said last year's invitational raised $10,000 for his cause.
"Before you reach for hate, before you look for a reason to despair something like this, remember all the good that's going on," Murdock said. "And the good that's going to continue to go on."
Dickinson told New 13 the event will go on, but understands where fellow brewers are coming from.
"We will do the festival. It's something bigger than the beer and the people," he added. "It's about raising money for a cause we really believe in and kind of evolving the way we think of the products we're producing. In the end, I think it's going to take a week or two for everything to shake out."
"The craft beer community is a very passionate community," Dickinson said. "If they weren't passionate about this moment, then I'd think less of them."
Woodward said he and other brewers are planning to have some sort of fundraiser for Eblen, even if they aren't at the Funkatorium Invitational. He may match the funds collected for Eblen to support charities in Alamance County.