Beer with a benefit: Breweries team up for wildfire relief

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- They say you can't fight fire with fire, but in Eastern Washington, they're fighting fire with... beer.

Two local breweries - Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg and Icicle Brewing in Leavenworth - are teaming up for a special benefit for victims of this year's record-breaking wildfire season.

One dollar from each bottle sold under the "Beer vs. Fire" label will be donated to the American Red Cross, said owners of the breweries.

"There's been a lot of acres burned and there's a lot of people displaced," said Greg Parker, co-owner of Iron Horse Brewery. "We live in this community and we want to really support it. I think it's important to show our neighbors that we're not only a business but we're people, too."

Officials evacuated thousands of people, as several large wildfires burned across the state in late July and early August. More than a dozen homes burned in the small town of Pateros in the central part of the state. Damage was estimated to be tens of millions of dollars in that community alone.

"We're pretty tight. Our kids play each other in sports. We visit the areas," said Pam Brulotte, owner of Icicle Brewing in Leavenworth. "We're close communities, so if there's a fire that hits a town hard, we all try to support each other."

Two homes were lost and Highway 2, a major artery into Leavenworth, was shut down, after the Chiwaukum Creek Fire raged just west of the city in July. Officials say tourism in the small Chelan County town took a significant hit.

The breweries hope to raise at least $12,000 for the Red Cross through the benefit. Participating beers - Iron Horse's 509 Session Ale and Icicle's Crosscut Pilsner - will be distributed in Eastern Washington in the next week or so, with a large, red 'Beer vs. Fire' label on them.

Those behind the effort hope to have some beer on store shelves in Western Washington as well.

"I don't think we can just go on with our daily lives and just forget about (what happened)," said Brulotte. "Even when the fires are gone, there's still a lot of people who are impacted."

"We're in a unique position as a brewery to provide fundraising that's fun," added Parker. "You want beer anyways, so why not buy beer and support the cause?"