by Corin Hirsch
They may possess wild talents, far-flung followers and occasional swagger, but Vermont's brewers, chefs and restaurateurs are also generous. That's what the Vermont Foodbank found out last week when it got an unexpected email from Dave Brodrick, one of three owners of South Royalton's Worthy Burger: A big check was on the way.
The Night Before the Night Before, a December 23 fête at the eatery, drew together hard-to-find beers, five courses of food, a cadre of local restaurant and brewing persona and some 85 beer fans for a benefit that was actually initiated by an out-of-stater: Sam Calagione, the founder of Delaware's Dogfish Head.
Calagione himself appeared with what Brodrick calls "four super-special kegs," including Birra Etrusca Bronze, an "ancient ale" planned partly according to analysis of 2800-year-old Etruscan drinking vessels (for realz).
The organizers had little problem selling $75 tickets, which probably made some beer geeks very, very happy — and also pulled in $2200 in proceeds.
A few of the event organizers formally handed the money over to the Foodbank this morning during a two-hour tour of its Barre HQ. That no one told the Foodbank about the fundraising event until today was taken in stride (apparently, it happens), and made the donation a welcome surprise.
"This is the best thing ever," says Christine Foster, the Foodbank's chief development officer. "Sometimes we know about [these events], and sometimes we don't. We know that we're not meeting the need in any given year, so this is a perfect example of a partnership, of people taking on the cause on their own and utilizing their audience and customers to get the message out."
Despite the constant press that Vermont's food and beer scene earns, hunger is barely on the wane in the state; Hunger Free Vermont estimates that 13 percent of all households are food insecure, and nearly a third of Vermonters cannot afford enough nutrititious food. The Foodbank serves roughly 86,000 Vermonters every year, and enrollment in 3 Squares VT (aka food stamps) is at an all-time high, more than 100,000 people.
Anyone is welcome to set up a tour of the Foodbank, says Foster. The warehouse's enormous scale can be a "moving experience," she adds. Next week, the Foodbank will hold a Hunger Action Day at the Vermont Statehouse to jumpstart meetings with legislators.
Back in South Royalton, Brodrick says there will almost certainly be another "Night Before" event next December 23 — though they may need to line up a bigger venue.
Last picture, from left: Jason Merrill from the Worthy Burger, director John Sayles from the Vermont Foodbank, Kurt Lessard and Dave Brodrick from the Worthy Burger and Chad Rich from Prohibition Pig. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.