Societe Brewing Offers Rare Beer for $5 in Exchange for Food Bank Donations

Societe Brewing Company is offering its rare beer, The Urchin, for just $5 a pop in exchange for food donations of at least 50 pounds

A San Diego brewery is tapping into its rare reserve to drive donations for locals in need, offering a special beer at a deep discount to those who give to others. 

Societe Brewing Company, located at 8262 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., is running its Holiday Food Drive now through Dec. 31 to benefit the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. The brewery is offering this sweet deal to all who donate: a bottle of The Urchin, a red wine barrel-aged, cranberry-infused sour ale for just $5 a pop.

The sour ale is described as a dry, balanced beer with a “subtle cranberry tartness leveled out by tannins extracted from the wood of the wine barrels in which it matured. The deep crimson ale is light on the palate and finishes with a touch of tinder-box spice.”

Normally, the brewery sells the rare beer for $50 per 500-millimeter bottle. Now, it’s serving as an incentive for locals to donate food that will be distributed to families in need.

And so far, the perk is working.

Societe Brewing Company
The Urchin, a red wine barrel-aged, cranberry-infused sour ale recently released by Societe Brewing Company. A bottle sells for -- or for just if you donate 50 pounds of food to the brewery's Holiday Food Drive.

Lorah Smith, events manager & director of charitable giving at Societe Brewing Company, said that in the first week of the food drive, the brewery has already collected nearly 8,000 pounds of donations for the San Diego Food Bank – far surpassing last year’s total donations for the Holiday Food Drive. 

“It’s pretty exciting,” Smith told NBC 7 on Wednesday. “It’s an incredible feeling to be able to help out our community – the people who live around us.”

Smith first spearheaded the brewery’s food drive in 2013. That first year, Societe Brewing Company collected about 250 pounds of food. In 2014, Smith said they gathered 500 pounds of food donations.

Last year, they were able to collect just under 5,000 pounds of food, and the growth of the food drive fueled Smith’s drive to go even bigger this year.

“This year, we’re pulling out all the stops including offering this incentive,” she explained. “We want to be able to give back to our community.”

Smith said she believes San Diegans have giving hearts and the brewery’s food drive has given them an outlet to donate.

“It’s amazing to watch one person walk through the door with 200, 300, 400 pounds of food,” she said. “It’s bringing out the best in people, and we’re happy to help facilitate that in any way that we can.”

The food donations are accepted at Societe’s Clairemont tasting room. When cutomers walk in, their donations are weighed out on a giant homemade food scale. When it balances out to 50 pounds, the customer gets the deal on The Urchin.

Smith said some patrons come into the tasting room with smaller donations, unaware of the beer-for-food deal. Once they see the scale and learn the details, some patrons leave to buy more food and return with the donations and to buy the $5 bottle of beer.

And, while patrons are very pleased to snag special sour, Smith said most people are just happy to be able to pay it forward through the food drive.

“It’s more about helping others than about the bottle of beer – but that is kind of a cool perk,” she added.

Smith and her husband, Societe Brewing co-founder and brewmaster Travis Smith, personally weigh the food donations on the homemade scale at the tasting room and later deliver the donations to the San Diego Food Bank.

The most needed food items this year include canned meats and tuna, canned soups, rice, spaghetti, peanut butter and infant formula.

Those who don’t quite make it to the 50 pounds on the scale will still get a kickback for donating: anyone who gives items from the most needed items list will get $1 off each full beer purchased at the tasting room on the day of their visit.

Travis Smith said Societe’s specialty beers are highly-anticipated by their customers, and he’s glad to be able to use the arrival of The Urchin as a tool to give back to the community.

“We hope connecting it to our food drive helps boost donations and make a positive impact on families in need of a helping hand,” he added.

Societe Brewing Company was founded in 2012. It's craft beer offerings include hoppy “Out West” ales, Belgian-inspired “Old World” ales and lagers and “Stygian” ales, as well as its maturing stock of “Feral” barrel-aged sours.

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