River team taps liquid asset
New brewer’s beer profits go toward helping Western waters
After a few weeks of retirement, Tim Carlson was ready to get back out there again.
He wanted to form a company. One that didn’t make him any money. A company that did good for the community, but he wouldn’t see a single cent from its success.
The idea had been brewing for a few years, a way to find sustainable funding for organizations related to rivers. The quest was to find sustainable funding for river projects, and beer was the answer.
Many Rivers Brewing Co. was born from the idea that a business could support a cause, while selling something its customers liked and providing support for causes they valued at the same time. And now, Grand Junction beer enthusiasts can find Many Rivers beer around town and drink it, knowing the profits are going to support local river-oriented nonprofits and their missions.
As the former executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition, Carlson understood the difficulties that nonprofits face in obtaining regular funding. He spent the past 15 years working with various watershed groups across the West, and the issue of consistent funding was a recurring problem.
He had been to plenty of trainings and seminars and conventions where nonprofits discussed how to get sustainable funding – but most of these discussions ended with the conclusion that nonprofits should just keep going back to the foundations that gave them money. These foundations largely came from endowments created by successful family businesses, like Gates Rubber or the Walton Family Foundation.
“Why not bypass the wealthy donor and go back to the company that made something in the first place?” Carlson said. Thus, the concept for Many Rivers was born. The founding shareholders are Carlson and Stacey Beaugh (the executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition), and Verde River conservationists Chip Norton and Steve Ayers, who live in Camp Verde, Arizona.
The idea for Many Rivers came from a backyard conversation years ago, when Carlson was sitting in Camp Verde, Arizona, visiting and drinking Ayers’ homebrew. The purpose is to make good beer people want to drink and help fund river projects with the profits, with a focus on donating to the communities where the beer is sold.
They formed a B Corp, otherwise known as a public benefit corporation, a mechanism to use business as a force for good, to raise money for a cause with profits. They could just as easily be selling ice cream, like Ben and Jerry’s, which became a certified B Corp in 2012. The certification recognizes companies for their social responsibility, a new type of corporation that uses profits to solve social or environmental problems with funds. There are currently 83 certified B Corps in Colorado which sell include everything from companies that sell natural sweeteners to chai tea, hats, to sustainability consulting, according to the nonprofit B Lab, which certifies B Corps.
“We could have sold almost anything, but beer is for everybody,” said Carlson. “And it goes better with rivers.”
They collaborated with Edgewater Brewery to develop the brew, and a test batch of what would become the flagship Many Waters amber ale passed with flying colors.
Many Waters’ plan is to distribute its beers across Colorado by the end of 2017, and then tap into the Arizona market. Soon, an IPA and a blonde beer will join the selection.
Carlson is already thinking ahead to the organization’s 10-year goal, to donate $2 million to various river-focused nonprofits, in the communities where the beer is sold.
Initially, organizations including the Riverfront Foundation, the Grand Valley Audubon Society, the Mesa Land Trust and the Tamarisk Coalition could benefit from sales of Many Waters beer.
Many Rivers Brewing Co. is currently on the shelves at local liquor stores, including Andy’s Liquor Mart, Country Club Liquors, Fun Junction Liquors and Redlands Liquor. It’s also available at Edgewater Brewery, Kannah Creek Brewery, Pablo’s Pizza and Bestslope Coffee in Fruita.