Thank you to everyone who joined us last Wednesday for the launch of Get Comfortable 2018! We are now excited to host our first Community Wednesday this week, and release our Get Comfortable IPA in 16oz cans at the brewery tomorrow. This is the 2018 installment of our Get Comfortable IPA, which is a hop-forward India Pale Ale with an annually rotating hop bill. All revenue from this beer will go into the Get Comfortable fund and we’ve timed its release to coincide with the Get Comfortable season of emphasis! For tasting notes and more details about the beer, click here to visit our brewery’s main website.
As we move into the 2018 Get Comfortable season, we asked our Director of Community & Culture, Matt Stevens, a few questions about the state of philanthropy in craft beer, the role of Creature Comforts in the Athens community, and his aspirations for both this program and beyond.
Question: Can you talk about this new position? How do you hope to shape the organizational culture at Creature Comforts, and why do you think that’s important?
Matt: The title of this new role at Creature Comforts is the Director of Community & Culture, which has I think both internal and external responsibilities. The external bit is encapsulated in the idea of community, and the question I find myself regularly asking is, How do we add value to our community? How, in other words, do we get people to the place where they think, whether they drink our beer or not, that they are glad we’re here? As far as our internal culture, I simply hope that Creature Comforts becomes one of the best places to work in the state. Conversely, I guess I’m wanting our employees to think, I’m so glad I’m here. I think this is important because, frankly, we’re talking about a person’s livelihood. They are giving the larger portion of their waking hours to be here serving our company. They could be giving their hours to any endeavor, but they choose to be here. We therefore want to honor that commitment.
Q: What are your overall goals for the Athens community? What do you think are the most effective ways in which Creature Comforts can give back?
M: As you may know, Athens is a tale of two cities: one which is polished and resourced, the other where there’s a legitimate struggle playing out. You may have heard some of the statistics: that we’re one of the most impoverished counties of our size in the country. We’re double the statewide poverty rate. One in three children grow up here below the poverty line, and so on. But we have a lot of resources here: a large, influential university, a vibrant business community, and a hearty nonprofit network doing important work. I would like to see the business community, with its infrastructure and focus and profit streams, come together in support of the nonprofit community, who are working in the trenches to make our city more healthy and stable. That’s why the mission of our Get Comfortable initiative is to become a unifying anchor specifically in the business community. We understand that many companies here sincerely want to give back, they simply haven’t had the opportunity yet to hire a person to manage their strategic philanthropy, to create a framework, and a website, and a funding structure to do so. We therefore hope to offer this campaign as a simple way for them to participate. And really, I think the best part of our new direction with Get Comfortable is the creation of an Advisory Committee of community stakeholders—leaders and scholars who live in this needs-assessment data. We invited them to the table to speak in both to what they would call our city’s most pressing needs, as well as the agencies best equipped to make a dent in them. The word picture that has come to mind is this: That we at Creature Comforts have a lot of hands, a lot of heart, resources to spend, we just need the heads in the room helping us to understand the best investment. In other words, let’s let the pros be pros.
Q: With the growth the craft beer industry has seen, do you think its role in the local community has developed as well? Do you think there are higher expectations for breweries fulfilling those roles in their local communities?
M: Before answering this question, let me candidly say that I’ve officially been in the craft beer community for something like 100 days, but I’ve been a consumer and a fan a good deal longer. But absolutely has the craft beer industry taken seriously the call to serve our neighbors. Look, for example, at breweries like Russian River and its recent Sonoma Pride efforts in response to the California wildfires. They’ve raised over $700,000 in just the past few weeks to support the people affected in that region. Then there are movements like Ales for ALS and breweries like Allagash and Stone and Ex Novo and New Belgium, all of which who have created entire series of beers and grant programs that give back. I think expectations have indeed risen, and that’s a good thing that companies, regardless of industry norms, are asking themselves the questions, What breaks our heart? And what can we do about it?
Q: Do you expect a focus on giving back to become more prevalent in the industry as a whole?
M: We certainly hope more and more of our peers will continue to adopt this emphasis. But as I’ve said, there are already many, many breweries leading the way in these efforts. There is, after all, a strange power in being seen doing good, which, by the way, is entirely different than doing good to be seen. It’s really just a heart condition that separates these two impulses, and we hope we never stray from our core values here. But with the amount of media and information we all consume, I think people have become extremely skillful at detecting both authenticity and hypocrisy. So yes, let’s all hope more and more companies get into the business of being seen doing good. Goodwill has a way of begetting goodwill.
Q: How have you seen the Athens community respond to Get Comfortable and Creature Comforts’ community-driven initiatives?
M: We’ve been really pleased with the response of the business community in Athens and have had several businesses step up each year to partner with us, generating additional funds for the campaign. You can learn more about each of our partners—both non- and for-profit—here. Beyond that, people have said wonderful things about this year’s Get Comfortable IPA after tapping it last week, both for the new taste, but also because 100% of those sales go into this fund. And we’ve had incredible turnouts in past years on our ‘Community Wednesdays’ during the campaign. Going in to the fourth year, we feel like we’ve built a solid foundation for our community impact programming, so we think 2018 will be an exciting year, both for us as a brewery and for Get Comfortable as a campaign.