In the last presidential election, according to census data, only around 61 percent of the country’s voting-age population bothered to cast a ballot. Numbers were even lower for younger voters, with less than 59 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds and just over 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds showing up at the polls. With big issues at stake in 2020—from climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic—civic-minded craft brewers across the country are doing their part to get out the vote. With the November 3 election only weeks away, many are releasing special beers, labels and t-shirts designed to get beer lovers in their communities to register, volunteer and vote.
Battling Voter Suppression
It may seem strange for a brewer in Ontario, Canada to launch a get-out-the-vote campaign for a U.S. election, but to Collective Arts Brewing founders Bob Russell—an American based in Vermont—and Matt Johnston, getting involved in the fight against voter suppression was an obvious move for a company founded on creativity, diversity and community.
“We hear about all the gerrymandering in the United States, the reduction in the number of polling stations, and the fact that the lines at the polls are so long that it’s hard for an hourly worker to have the ability to vote,” says Johnston. “The US is supposed to be a shining light of democracy, and the right to vote for all citizens is key to that system.”
To mobilize voters in 2020, Collective Arts created limited-edition t-shirts emblazoned with a simple message—VOTE—along with four different can designs for its Life in the Clouds IPA, each bearing a single letter of the word “vote.” Net proceeds from the tees and 10 cents from the sale of each can support the American Civil Liberties Union’s ongoing campaign against voter suppression.
Election Day Holiday
Long Island-based Blue Point Brewing introduced its Voters’ Day Off limited-edition IPA during the 2018 midterm elections. Dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, the can design includes a QR code that links to a web page created by voter registration advocate HeadCount. There, Blue Point fans can register to vote and sign a petition asking the U.S. Senate to make Election Day a federal holiday.
“In so many areas, and even within our own company, people mentioned the lack of time as a key reason for not heading to their polling places,” says Blue Point general manager Carrie Shafir. “At Blue Point, we wholeheartedly believe in the importance of using your voice at the polls, and not having the time to vote shouldn’t be a reason to not do so.”
Along with releasing its annual Voters’ Day Off session IPA, available at the brewery’s Patchogue brewpub and online, Blue Point made a splash on National Voter Registration Day in September by taking the brewery’s “boat bar” on the road, making voter registration stops throughout the region.
Imagine Nation Brewing Co. in Missoula, Montana, is also working to increase voter registration, by collaborating with MontPIRG, a local organization that encourages young people to get involved with civic issues. Together, they released an IPA called Apathy is Cancelled, with label art featuring pro-voting messages and the URL for MissoulaVotes.com. The beer is sold in the Imagine Nation taproom, through Tavour, and in Missoula bottle shops and markets.
“Beer is something that can reach all ages and all levels of society,” says brewery owner Fernanda Menna Barreto Krum. “That was our idea behind the brewery, that beer would be a vehicle for us to reach all walks of life, and that our taproom is a public house where anybody can go and have a beer, and talk about important things.”
Among those important things, she says, are climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think a presidential election is a really big deal for a country, and we as humanity are facing really big challenges,” says Menna Barreto Krum. “We want to make sure people can vote and contribute to that choice for the best of the country.”
Recruiting Poll Workers
When Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams set out to recruit poll workers for the 2020 election, he reached out to the Kentucky Guild of Brewers for help. Four of the association’s members immediately agreed to participate in the campaign by creating a new beer or packaging an existing one in a specially designed can. Each label bears a QR code that links to information on how to volunteer at the polls and register to vote.
For Pivot Brewing Co. in Lexington, the decision to get involved was an easy one. “In Kentucky we normally have around 13,000 poll workers per election, but the Secretary of State told me we only had around 3,000 for the primaries because of COVID,” says Pivot Brewing digital marketing and sustainability manager Bailey Johnson. “We really pride ourselves in getting involved in social issues, so when we heard about this we jumped all over it.”
Pivot wasn’t able to create a special brew for the campaign, so it packaged its Vintage Cider in the “Poll Workers Needed” cans, which are sold in the taproom and at local retail outlets.
“It’s usually people age 60-and-over who work the polls, but this year they really shouldn’t be out there,” says Johnson. “We need the younger generation to volunteer, and the target market for our beer is the 25 to 35 age group.”
A similar multi-brewer collaboration in Ohio has recruited more than 30 brewers to release an Every Vote Counts beer packaged in cans that include a link to voter registration information at VoteOhio.gov. Worthington-based Zaftig Brewing Co. temporarily renamed its Juicy Lucy West Coast-style IPA as Every Vote Counts on the taproom draft board, and created taproom signage with QR code links to the state’s voter registration site.
“No matter what your leanings are, everyone deserves the opportunity to get information about voting, where your voter registration stands, and how to vote safely—whether it be in person or absentee,” says Amber Fogel, Zaftig’s media and communications manager. “We wanted to be part of the solution.”