In 1996, Freddy Bensch was a recent graduate with an environmental science degree in his pocket, and big passions for craft beer and exploring the great outdoors. A road trip with his best friend, Kevin, and dog, Badger, took him eastbound. His truck broke down in Atlanta; arguably the most fortuitous inconvenience of his life.
This was during the 1996 Olympics, and Atlanta was positively humming with excitement. In addition to the southern ladies, Freddy was enamored by the city’s natural resources—the river and creeks, the proximity of the mountains. He also saw the challenges Atlanta had with protecting their waterways, and immediately started itching to help. Freddy knew this was where he needed to land and open a business—he’d spent college working at a Colorado brewery, and felt that he could succeed in delivering those West Coast style ales to the south.
From day one, Freddy’s passion for clean water and protecting natural habitats formed the business strategy—after long days of building the brewery, he’d take respite in paddling Sweetwater Creek, hence the brewing company’s name. He also got SweetWater involved with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, giving beer and volunteer power, plus any dollars he could scrape together, to their efforts.
As the brewery grew from a tiny start-up to the nation’s 15th largest craft brewery, so did SweetWater’s support of causes near and dear to their hearts. Consumers have likely seen their annual Save Our Water campaign, which donates $100,000 to conservation organizations every summer. They may have seen SweetWater-wrapped fishing boats on The Hooch, or a SweetWater banner at one of the hundreds of habitat or river clean up events they support every year. It’s no secret that SweetWater loves to give back to good people who protect their passions of fishing, paddling, swimming, and just being out on the water—and it’s no secret that you can’t make good beer without clean water.
SweetWater is introducing a new philanthropic endeavor this October: The brewery is turning cans of their iconic “Blue” blueberry wheat ale from blue to pink, and donating a portion of sales of these specials cans to Casting for Recovery. This will be the first time in 21 years of brewing that SweetWater has altered the art on the “Blue” brand, which was one of the two original brews to flow from the brewery.
Casting for Recovery (CfR) provides healing fly fishing retreats for women with breast cancer at no cost to participants. CfR’s retreats offer opportunities for women to find inspiration, discover renewed energy for life, and experience powerful connections with other women and nature. The retreats are open to women with breast cancer of all ages, in all stages of treatment and recovery.
For women who have had surgery or radiation as part of their breast cancer treatment, the gentle motion of fly casting can be good physical therapy for the upper body. Couple that with the emotional benefits of a day on the water, and you’ve got powerful medicine. CfR retreats are unconventional and described by many women as life-changing.
SweetWater chose to support Casting for Recovery because of their incredible work for women with, and recovering from, breast cancer—Freddy and the SweetWater employees love fly fishing as much as they love great beer, and can personally attest to the healing power of the cast. They also have a personal connection—Casting for Recovery helped out their good friend and partner, Becca Klein, director of development for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, during her battle with breast cancer.
Pick up a pink “Blue” can this October, maybe throw a few in your cooler, throw on your waders, and hit your favorite fishing hole—thank SweetWater for their support of this incredible organization, and for all they do to help keep our waters clean and natural habitats protected.