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Beer sales help troops’ families

  • Jennifer Cernoch, president of Operation Homefront of Texas, and Saint Arnold Brewing Co. founder Brock Wagner display a baseball bat used to age beer for the Hops for Heroes program. Photo: Ronnie Crocker / HC
    Jennifer Cernoch, president of Operation Homefront of Texas, and Saint Arnold Brewing Co. founder Brock Wagner display a baseball bat used to age beer for the Hops for Heroes program.

 

Raise a Memorial Day toast to the troops this year – and lend a hand to their families here in Texas at the same time – with a new beer from Saint Arnold Brewing Co.

The Houston craft brewery was invited to join five other beer makers to take part in Hops for Heroes, a national fund-raising effort to benefit Operation Homefront. Each brewery is making an India pale ale and calling it Homefront IPA.

Just in time for this holiday weekend, Saint Arnold began releasing 40,000 bottles of its version to retailers throughout Texas.

The special-release beer, a flavorful West Coast-style IPA with a distinct orange flavor, is available in 22-ounce bottles that retail for $7.89. All profits go to San Antonio-based Operation Homefront of Texas, which helps struggling military families at home.

Brewery founder Brock Wagner expects he will be able to write a check for more than $100,000 because the majority of the ingredients used in production were donated by suppliers. Distributors also have agreed to donate to the cause.

“We decided that we wanted to make the biggest donation,” Wagner said. He added, by way of explanation, “We are from Texas.”

Saint Arnold’s largest previous charitable donation was an $8,000 gift last year to the Galveston Historical Foundation in support of the tall ship Elissa, the namesake of Saint Arnold’s year-round IPA.

Jennifer Cernoch, president of Operation Homefront of Texas, said her organization helps troops from all of the state’s 16 active military bases and 117 National Guard armories. With a four-person staff, the group provides emergency assistance to the families of military personnel currently deployed and wounded troops during their transition to civilian life.

Cernoch said the 6-year-old Texas chapter has a budget of $2.3 mil-lion this year to cover rent or mortgage payments, utility, medical and grocery bills, and other unexpected shortfalls for the families of junior enlisted troops, many of which fall below the federal poverty standards. She said the charity’s audit shows 95 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to these families.

“We want to make sure the lights are on and the mortgage gets paid,” Cernoch said.

At the brewery Thursday morning, Cernoch called Saint Arnold’s participation “a blessing” that not only will boost the coffers but also raise awareness of the plight of many military families.

“Their donation, it will keep a roof over somebody’s head,” she said.

Nationally, Operation Homefront launched in February 2002 after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the nation’s military response.

The Hops for Heroes program started last year with a collaborative Homefront IPA from Seattle’s Fremont Brewing Co., founded by former Houstonian Matt Lincecum, and the forthcoming Center of the Universe Brewing Co., led by home brewer and former Seattle Mariners pitcher Chris Ray. The beer was aged with Louisville Slugger bats.

The Saint Arnold beer likewise was aged on the bats, although Wagner said the wood does not impart any flavor. Still, one of the bats is being auctioned off on eBay, with proceeds going to Operation Homefront of Texas.

Earlier this month, Saint Arnold drew 40 to 50 volunteers to the brewery to help zest 2,000 oranges to add to the batch. Afterward, Wagner recalled, “The second floor smelled wonderful.”

But the combined effort left a more permanent mark on the staffers and volunteers who took part in what Cernoch described as the single largest donation her group has received.

“For everybody here,” Wagner said, “to feel that ownership is special.”

 

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