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Drinkers for Ukraine

Lana Svitankova first fell in love with beer after encountering a glass of dark Czech lager on a honeymoon trip to Prague in 2008. Her passion for beer motivated her to eventually become the first Ukrainian certified cicerone, an international beer judge, and a writer. Currently, she works as the brand ambassador for the Varvar Brewery in Kyiv. Because of the war in Ukraine, the brewery, although currently undamaged, has ceased production. Its workers have joined the volunteer ranks in various cities to help however they can. Svitankova and her husband currently live in Zürich, but as Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine began, Svitankova was compelled to find a way to help from afar.

The Call to Action

In February, as Russia’s invasion began, Svitankova was approached by Eoghan Walsh of beer blog Brussels Beer City and Richard Croasdale and Robyn Gilmour of UK craft beer magazine Ferment with an idea for a fundraiser to aid Ukraine. “Being unable to help my country in any other way, I jumped on the opportunity immediately,” she says. 

Together they created Drinkers for Ukraine, an online fundraising campaign that went live on March 3. And though it’s an initiative created by the beer community, anyone is invited to get involved. “Choosing the beer community was obvious because it’s a community we are most engaged with. But we wanted to make it as inclusive as possible,” says Svitankova. “That’s why it’s not only for beer drinkers, but wine drinkers, cider drinkers, any drinker. Non-drinkers included.”

Brewing in Solidarity

The campaign focuses on raising money for the International Committee of the Red Cross, but it also gives people the tools to set up their own fundraising efforts. Options include online auctions and a Solidarity Brew recipe created by displaced Ukrainian brewers. Brewers and homebrewers are invited to brew the beer—an (anti) Imperial stout with beetroot. Participating brewers can name it as they choose but are asked to label it with Ukraine’s national blue and yellow colors and donate proceeds to the Red Cross. 

“The idea of Anti-Imperial Stout came to my mind instantly when we decided to do a solidarity brew,” says Svitankova. “Since Ukraine is under attack because of Russia’s desire to create another empire, it seems proper. And Imperial Stout (in the meaning bigger, stronger, more expressive) is quite a popular style.”

In the U.S., breweries such as Final Gravity Brewing Company in Michigan, Kings & Daughters Brewery in Oregon, and Vector Brewing in Texas have created and sold their own Solidarity brews. Insurrection AleWorks in Pennsylvania renamed their Bocctahne Russian Imperial Stout the ONIP Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout.

Drinkers for Ukraine wanted to give brewers a choice of how to participate as well as what to brew. “Some brewers were willing to release their own beers under the name Resist to get funds asap,” Svitankova says.

Livestream Fundraiser

On Saturday, March 26, Drinkers for Ukraine will livestream a fundraising event. The day will showcase a mix of live feeds and recordings from Ukrainian breweries, other fundraisers, and music from bands in Ukraine.

Svitankova says that so far the #DrinkersforUkraine online auctions have raised about 10,000 Euros ($11,000 USD).

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