Brewing Hope: The Craft Beer Community's Pint-Sized Battle Against Breast Cancer
Time to read 23 min
Time to read 23 min
Every October, a wave of pink sweeps across the globe, capturing hearts, minds, and social media feeds. This isn’t just a random aesthetic trend. The color pink, specifically the pink ribbon, has become an emblem of breast cancer awareness. Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a beacon, illuminating the importance of understanding, early detection, and support for those affected by the disease. But how did this month-long observance come to be? And what is its profound purpose?
Breast Cancer Awareness Month, commonly called BCAM, traces its roots back to the early 1980s. While breast cancer itself has been known and documented for millennia, it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th Century that a concentrated effort began to raise awareness on a large scale.
The Inception: The history of BCAM is closely tied to the history of the pink ribbon. The idea of using a ribbon as a symbol of support and solidarity began with the yellow ribbons tied on trees to show support for the hostages during the Iran hostage crisis and subsequently for soldiers during the Gulf War. The concept of a ribbon as a poignant symbol of awareness and advocacy had taken root.
However, the pink ribbon specifically for breast cancer came into existence later. In the early 1990s, Charlotte Hayley, who battled breast cancer, produced peach-colored ribbons in her home and began distributing them locally with cards stating, "The National Cancer Institute's annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up legislators and America by wearing this ribbon."
It wasn't until a collaboration between Hayley, Self magazine, and the cosmetic giant Estée Lauder Companies, that the ribbon became pink and started being distributed at Estée Lauder counters across the United States. Thus, the pink ribbon became synonymous with breast cancer awareness.
Evolution Over Time: The 1980s established several breast cancer-focused organizations, including Susan G. Komen for the Cure. These organizations began organizing events like the Race for the Cure, propelling awareness.
In 1985, the American Cancer Society partnered with the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca) to formally establish October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The main goal of BCAM has always been multi-faceted:
1. Raise Awareness: Despite being one of the most common cancers globally, many people remain unaware of the risks and the measures they can take for early detection. BCAM provides a platform to amplify the message, ensuring it reaches every nook and cranny.
2. Advocate for Early Detection: Mammograms and self-exams play a crucial role in early detection. BCAM focuses on educating people about the importance of these screenings, making it clear that early detection can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment. Read our article on at-home screening here.
3. Support Affected Individuals: A diagnosis of breast cancer can be both mentally and physically challenging. BCAM serves as a reminder that no one is alone in this journey. It fosters a sense of global community and solidarity, with survivors, patients, and families drawing strength from collective support.
4. Fundraise for Research: Funding is the lifeblood of medical research. Through various events, campaigns, and collaborations during BCAM, significant funds are raised. These funds drive research into better treatment options, potential cures, and improved patient care.
5. Influence Policy Changes: With heightened awareness comes the power to effect change. Over the years, the momentum generated by BCAM has been instrumental in influencing health policies, ensuring that breast cancer remains a priority on the global health agenda.
Nestled among spirited discussions about aromatic hops, malt varieties, and the latest sour brews, there exists a deeply rooted commitment within the Craft Beer Girls community to issues that resonate with the experiences of women. Among these is the pressing concern of breast cancer. Supported by hard statistics and the stories they tell, it’s clear that breast cancer isn’t a distant cause for this community. It’s immediate, personal, and deeply significant. Here's a deep dive into why breast cancer awareness is of paramount importance to Craft Beer Girls.
Craft Beer Girls, with its focus on women and non-binary individuals, doesn't just discuss the nuances of beer; they share life experiences. And breast cancer, unfortunately, is one such shared experience for many. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women, affecting 2.3 million women each year, and resulting in the most significant number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2020, it was estimated that 685,000 women died from breast cancer—that’s roughly 16% of all cancer deaths among women.
Given the demographic makeup of Craft Beer Girls, it's almost a statistical certainty that several of its members, or their loved ones, have or will encounter this disease. This isn't about numbers on a page. It's about the members themselves - sisters, friends, mothers, and colleagues. The omnipresent shadow of breast cancer makes it an urgent and personal issue for the community.
The value of awareness in the fight against breast cancer is monumental. Studies show that early detection, combined with appropriate treatments, can significantly improve breast cancer outcomes. The American Cancer Society asserts that the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer when detected early in the localized stage is 99%. The difference between early detection and late detection can be the difference between life and death.
For a community as closely connected as Craft Beer Girls, disseminating this awareness becomes both a moral duty and a heartfelt mission. Every post, every shared story, and every conversation about self-exams or mammograms has the potential to reach thousands and potentially shift the trajectory of someone's life.
Breast cancer is not just a medical journey but an emotional roller-coaster. And during such times, community support is invaluable. Research from the World Journal of Psychiatry indicates that social support can play a crucial role in psychological health for breast cancer patients.
The craft beer community, defined by its warm camaraderie and genuine bonds, is uniquely positioned to provide this support. Whether it's through fundraisers to aid members in treatment, support groups that offer space for sharing and healing, or just being present during the challenging times—this community becomes a beacon of hope and resilience. There's a profound comfort derived from shared experiences, from knowing that others understand, and that you're not alone. Within Craft Beer Girls, every shared beer signifies much more—it’s a shared moment of understanding, solace, and solidarity.
Within the barrels of craft beer and beneath the frothy pours, there's a narrative that often goes unnoticed – the craft beer community's unwavering commitment to societal causes, particularly health-related endeavors. One of the most commendable initiatives taken by this community is raising awareness for breast cancer, a disease that touches countless lives every year.
Beyond the buzz of new beer launches and tasting events, craft breweries have often used their platforms to support and spread awareness about various causes affecting their constituents. Over the years, we've seen numerous events, collaborations, and limited-edition beers crafted specifically to draw attention to, and raise funds for, breast cancer research and awareness.
It's not just about creating a new flavor or adding a catchy name; it's about embedding a message of hope, resilience, and solidarity within each brew. Every pint sold or event ticket purchased translates to more than just revenue; it signifies a step closer to a world with improved breast cancer outcomes and heightened awareness.
In the heart of Waukee, Iowa, an exceptional initiative was brewing. The "Scars Are Beautiful" campaign, helmed by Jess Klembara of Confluence Brewing Co., stands as a shining beacon of how personal trials can metamorphose into community-driven triumphs.
Jess's journey began with a life-altering revelation. Diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene at the tender age of 27, she was presented with daunting statistics: a 90% risk of breast cancer, an 84% risk of ovarian cancer, and a 56% risk for pancreatic cancer. Faced with such overwhelming odds, Jess underwent a double mastectomy, a decision further vindicated upon the discovery of a precancerous tumor during her surgery.
But Jess's spirit remained unbroken. Instead of receding into the shadows of her diagnosis, she chose to spotlight it, drawing attention to the often-overlooked struggles that young women face, especially in the workforce.
(Photo Courtesy of Jess Klembara)
In a symbiotic blend of her passion for craft beer and her newfound mission, Jess spearheaded the "Scars Are Beautiful" campaign. This was no ordinary beer project. Collaborating with 22 other breweries across Iowa, Jess created a unique West Coast IPA. Symbolically, the beer stands as a tribute to every individual's journey following a double mastectomy. The name itself captures the essence of the campaign: while the journey might be arduous, the scars that mark this battle are a testament to an individual's beauty and resilience.
But Jess's vision extended beyond the beer itself. She wanted to provide tangible support to those in the throes of their own battles. For every pint sold, a dollar was donated to the Blessing Box Project. Led by breast cancer survivor Dawn Compton, this donation-based organization provides post-mastectomy care items, including hand-sewn pillows and drain shirts.
The initial response was overwhelming. The launch saw 22 breweries either putting it on tap or offering cans for sale. The ripple effects of this campaign have expanded beyond Iowa's borders. "Scars Are Beautiful" has garnered support nationwide, with a burgeoning roster of 33 breweries across nine states pledging their participation.
But more than the numbers, the campaign's soul lies in its message. As Jess succinctly puts it, the beer is about the challenging journey post-mastectomy and the significant scars it leaves behind. "It's a tough journey to go on, but you are beautiful, and so are your scars."
Founded in 2010, the Brewbies® Festival stands as a shining example of the craft brewing community's drive to make a positive impact. Over the years, it has worked hand-in-hand with the Keep A Breast Foundation to push forward the foundation's vital mission of reducing global breast cancer risk and impact through art, education, prevention, and action. Through their combined efforts, the Brewbies® Festival has successfully channeled over $560,000 into the foundation's Education and Support Programs.
(Photo Courtesy of Brewbies)
Brewbies was cultivated within the vibrant San Diego craft beer scene—a global hub renowned not just for its inventive brews and uncompromising standards, but also for its deeply entrenched values of camaraderie, support, and mutual respect. San Diego's craft beer ethos, believed by many to have ignited the worldwide craft beer movement, has been instrumental in sustaining the Brewbies® Festival for over a decade. Today, the festival is recognized as one of the most successful charity events in the craft beer realm.
Beer's inherent ability to unite people has been at the core of Brewbies since its inception. The festival was conceived with the noble aim of rallying good-hearted individuals for an essential cause. True to its founding principle, Brewbies has consistently directed 100% of its net proceeds to the Keep A Breast Foundation, endorsing their transformative education and awareness initiatives. Their collective endeavor empowers individuals to prioritize their health, heightening awareness and minimizing cancer risks.
Nestled within the Yakima Valley, the heart of hop country, is a powerful message: "One in Eight" women will face a breast cancer diagnosis. Recognizing this, the brewing community of hop growers, dealers, and brewers united with a noble mission: brew beer to raise funds for cancer care services. With the collective effort of over 1,000 brewers since 2018, the movement continues to gain momentum.
The story began with Shelley Desmarais, CLS Farms owner, who bravely battled breast cancer twice. In 2018, re-energized and resolved, she returned, determined to support women on similar journeys. Around the same time, Steve Luke of Seattle's Cloudburst Brewing confronted the news of his mother's diagnosis. From their shared experiences, "One in Eight" was born.
(Photo Courtesy of One in Eight)
In its inaugural year, Steve traveled from Seattle to CLS Farms, sourcing 600 pounds of fresh Centennial hops to craft the initiative's first brew. With each pint sold in their tasting room, a dollar was generously donated to Wellness House in Yakima, a non-profit championing women and families in the valley.
Building on 2018's success, Icicle Brewing joined the movement in 2019. Led by Pamela Brulotte, a Desmarais family cousin and a breast cancer survivor, they brewed a distinct "One in Eight" beer, infusing it with fresh El Dorado® hops. Available both canned and on draft across Washington, this brew serves as a beacon of hope and unity in the fight against breast cancer.
The role of breweries in these initiatives cannot be understated. More than just places where beer is brewed and served, they become hubs of community, dialogue, and action. By hosting events, launching awareness campaigns, or crafting special edition brews, breweries underscore their commitment to causes that resonate deeply within the community.
At the Craft Beer Conference (CBC) in Nashville, TN, a panel of remarkable women from the brewing industry shared their intimate journey with breast cancer. These women included Sarah Perez from Rahr & Sons Brewing, Jess Klembara from Confluence Brewing, Shelley Desmarais of CLS Farms, Venus Forteza from Maize & Barley, and Pamela Brulotte of Icicle Brewing Company.
The startling statistic "One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer" resonated profoundly, highlighting the life-changing physical, mental, and emotional challenges they faced. Additionally, navigating these challenges while working in a physically demanding brewery environment, especially after surgeries like mastectomies, added another layer of complexity.
Beyond the physical challenges, there's the emotional burden of deciding when and how to disclose the diagnosis to colleagues and balancing medical appointments with work responsibilities. Within the brewhouse, both Perez and Klembara recounted the difficulties of their roles post-surgery, with Perez noting the discomfort of handling grain bags and Klembara discussing her eventual shift from brewing to marketing after her double mastectomy.
The stories also shed light on the often unseen aspects of cancer. Forteza's account highlighted the strain of juggling a business amidst treatment during a pandemic, especially with a compromised immune system. Many women touched upon the challenges of vulnerability, especially when they are often the caregivers. Desmarais, a two-time breast cancer survivor, emphasized the difficulty of accepting help and shedding the armor of invulnerability.
Yet, despite the hardships, the CBC session was also about advocacy. Each woman's experience underlined the importance of advocating for one's health, especially in a system that can sometimes overlook or misdiagnose critical signs.
Amid the pain and challenges, stories of resilience, community support, and giving back emerged. Klembara, for example, initiated the "Scars Are Beautiful" campaign and organized walks that raised substantial amounts for local breast cancer organizations. Desmarais started the "One in Eight" campaign to fundraise for cancer care.
(Photo Courtesy of Hop Culture)
These incredible women also found camaraderie and support in each other, forming a sisterhood within the brewing community. Their shared experiences, spanning from battling breast cancer to a shared love for craft beer, solidified their bond. Despite the challenges breast cancer brought, it also led them to each other, emphasizing the power of community, resilience, and friendship.
The craft beer community is not just about brewing; it's about building bridges, fostering connections, and driving change. With its rich tapestry of brewers, enthusiasts, and supporters, the community is perfectly poised to make a significant impact in the fight against breast cancer. Here are some tangible ways the community can rally behind this cause:
Events tailored toward Breast Cancer Awareness offer a powerful platform to both spread knowledge and raise funds. Breweries can spearhead or support fundraisers, auctions, or specialized gatherings where patrons can enjoy craft beer while contributing to the cause. These gatherings also provide an opportunity for survivors, families, and supporters to come together, share stories, and brainstorm innovative ways to further the mission.
Knowledge is power, and the craft beer community can serve as an influential conduit for disseminating information about breast cancer. Breweries can host educational sessions featuring medical professionals, survivors, and advocates. Distributing literature, showcasing informative infographics, and holding Q&A sessions can help in ensuring everyone is equipped with the right information.
Breweries have a unique tool at their disposal: their beer. Crafting limited-edition brews dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness not only raises funds but also acts as a beacon, rallying patrons to the cause. The narrative around these brews, from their naming to their packaging, can be a constant reminder of the shared commitment to fighting breast cancer.
Craft Beer Girls, in collaboration with Beer is for Everyone, has embarked on an inspiring journey to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. Our campaign revolves around the evocative "Brew Hope" initiative. With this effort, we have introduced two beautifully crafted designs that encapsulate the essence of hope, resilience, and the fighting spirit.
These meaningful designs have been thoughtfully integrated into a diverse range of merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, and bags. These items are a testament to the unity and commitment of the craft beer community and serve a higher purpose. Every purchase made translates into support for the cause, as 100% of the proceeds are channeled towards the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society.
The symbiotic partnership between Craft Beer Girls and Beer is for Everyone amplifies the reach and impact of the "Brew Hope" initiative. This partnership demonstrates the power of collaboration when two dedicated entities come together for a shared cause. Each piece of merchandise that finds a home acts as a beacon of hope, showcasing the indomitable spirit of those battling breast cancer and the relentless support of their community.
By promoting and endorsing the "Brew Hope" campaign, breweries and craft beer aficionados alike can actively contribute to a broader narrative. This narrative emphasizes the importance of collective action, community involvement, and the profound difference a united front can make in the face of adversity.
In essence, the "Brew Hope" initiative serves as a rallying call. It beckons every individual in the craft beer community and beyond to wear their support, to raise their glasses in solidarity, and to play a part in the ongoing fight against breast cancer. Whether by purchasing a hoodie, sharing the initiative on social media, or simply spreading the word, every gesture counts. Let's champion this beautiful collaboration and make a lasting impact in the lives of countless individuals affected by breast cancer.
When we think of breast cancer, it's natural to conjure images of pink ribbons, annual awareness marches, and a sea of women championing the cause. Such is the profound impact of mainstream narratives. Yet, lurking behind these overwhelmingly female-centric campaigns is an often overlooked truth: men, too, are at risk. Although breast cancer in men is less common than in women, it is no less serious or deserving of attention.
Male breast cancer exists in the shadows, a lesser-known facet of this formidable disease, often leading to misconceptions or even disbelief. This lack of awareness can delay diagnoses and subsequently, treatment, potentially jeopardizing lives. With breast tissue present in all humans, irrespective of gender, the possibility of malignant growths isn't strictly a female concern.
For men, the social stigma and sheer surprise of being diagnosed can also take a heavy emotional toll. The assumption that they're impervious to such a disease can leave them feeling isolated in their battle. But knowledge is empowerment. As we delve deeper into the complexities of breast cancer, it's crucial to expand the conversation, making it inclusive for all.
By understanding that breast cancer doesn't discriminate by gender, we can foster a more informed and supportive community, ensuring that everyone remains vigilant about their health and that those affected receive the care and understanding they deserve.
Breast cancer, like many medical conditions, doesn't exist in a vacuum. Its awareness, prevention, and treatment are intricately woven with sociocultural, economic, and political threads that shape individual experiences. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, recognizes these multiple identities and how they overlap and intersect, especially in the context of systemic oppression or discrimination. In the realm of breast cancer, understanding intersectionality is crucial, as it plays a significant role in determining access to care, quality of treatment, and overall outcomes.
Understanding intersectionality in the context of breast cancer is not about pitting one group's struggles against another's but recognizing the multi-dimensional challenges individuals might face. It's essential for healthcare providers, policymakers, and advocacy groups to be cognizant of these intersecting factors. Only by addressing these complex layers can we hope to build a truly inclusive, comprehensive, and effective breast cancer awareness, prevention, and treatment strategy that serves everyone.
The fight against cancer is not confined to one type or form. While breast cancer has received significant attention and support over the years, it is vital to acknowledge and understand the numerous other types of cancer that affect people worldwide. Every type of cancer is unique, with its challenges, manifestations, and treatment protocols. As we rally behind breast cancer awareness, it is essential to remember and support the broader fight against all cancers.
Each cancer has its advocacy groups, research foundations, and supportive communities dedicated to advancing treatment, raising awareness, and enhancing patients' quality of life. These organizations play a crucial role in progressing the science of cancer, offering hope to patients, and creating platforms for survivors to share their stories.
Activities: Supports research, advocates for patients, and offers support programs.
Activities: Community events, awareness campaigns, and grant funding for community screening programs.
The fight against cancer is multifaceted and demands a comprehensive, united approach. Whether it specializes in one type of cancer or covers a broader spectrum, each organization listed above plays a crucial role in advancing our understanding, improving patient care, and driving advocacy efforts. As we champion breast cancer awareness and research, let's not forget the myriad other cancers affecting individuals worldwide. Supporting these organizations, whether through donations, volunteering, or simply raising awareness, helps to strengthen the global battle against cancer.
By recognizing the entire spectrum of cancers and the dedicated efforts to combat them, we acknowledge the interwoven tapestry of patients, survivors, families, researchers, and advocates working tirelessly toward a world free from the shadow of cancer.
The craft beer community, characterized by its camaraderie, creativity, and passion, stands as an exemplar of what community-led initiatives can achieve. Over the years, the industry has not just brewed innovative and delightful beers; it has also become a harbinger of change, awareness, and social upliftment. In the context of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this community's involvement sends a powerful message about collective responsibility, empathy, and the profound impact that groups can have when they rally behind a worthy cause.
Breast cancer, a diagnosis that affects countless individuals and their families worldwide, requires more than just medical advancement. It demands awareness, early detection campaigns, post-diagnosis support, and a sense of community to rally around those affected. And who better to champion these aspects than the craft beer community, known for its close-knit nature and desire to make a difference?
A Symbol of Solidarity: When a brewery dedicates a beer to breast cancer awareness or when patrons see events and promotions related to the cause, it serves as a symbol of collective solidarity. Such actions remind those affected by breast cancer that they are not alone, and an entire community stands with them.
Education Through Engagement: Beyond fundraising, craft beer events centered on breast cancer awareness also serve as platforms for education. Whether it's about early detection, understanding risk factors, or providing resources for survivors, these gatherings foster meaningful dialogues and informed communities.
Your pint glass, filled with a special craft brew dedicated to breast cancer awareness, is more than just a drink. It's a symbol of your contribution to a larger narrative — one of hope, resilience, and community-driven action.
In conclusion, the involvement of the craft beer community in Breast Cancer Awareness Month stands testament to the fact that when industries and communities come together, they can enact tangible change and provide solace and support. However, it's not just the responsibility of breweries or organizations. As individuals, each of us holds the power to make a difference, be it big or small.
So, the next time you raise a glass of that special brew, know that you're toasting to hope, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of countless individuals. Let's continue to champion the cause, not just this month but always, until the world is free from the shadow of breast cancer.
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