One beer. Five organizations. One year of giving.

Philanthropy has been a core component of Castle Island since the beginning. For years, the brewery ran a program called “Party for a Purpose.” Every month, the Massachusetts-based brewery would host a party in the taproom for a certain local organization. That night, a percentage of all taproom sales would go to a different charitable partner.

But when the COVID-19 global pandemic forced Castle Island to close its Norwood taproom, the team reflected.

They realized they could do more.

“We really wanted to be able to build more long-lasting relationships…and focus on giving back more to the community around us,” says Lauren Horgan, director of regulatory affairs and operational effectiveness and Fiver committee chair at Castle Island.

The brewery wanted to go beyond one night and one organization.

So last year, Castle Island launched its inaugural Fiver Initiative, a charitable giving program supported by global sales of Fiver, a year-round hazy IPA.

For every giving year—the period from December 1st through November 30th—the program donates five percent from all sales of Fiver to five different local organizations.

After raising over $20k for the program in 2021, Castle Island hopes to make this year’s Fiver Initiative bigger and better than ever.

One Beer + One Year + Five Companies = Castle Island’s Fiver Initiative

castle island brewing fiver initiative
Photography courtesy of Castle Island Brewing Co.

The purpose of the Fiver Initiative is a simple math equation: Take one particular beer in their portfolio and dedicate five percent from all draft, package, wholesale, and taproom sales for one entire year to five different community organizations.

“That was very special,” says Courtney Ford, director of individual giving, engagement, and events at Artists for Humanity, one of the inaugural beneficiaries of the Fiver Initiative. “That’s unlike most other companies who usually feature a non-profit for one month, but not for the entire year.”

And certainly not for five different companies.

So, why five?

Well, the team came up with five areas they felt excited about: arts and education, social justice and equality, environment and sustainability, animal welfare, and public health.

“We’re looking for our impact to be local and mean something to us,” says Horgan. “What is our staff passionate about? What are we passionate about?”

Plus, the number five had a special significance at Castle Island. With their top-selling hazy IPA fortuitously named Fiver, it seemed like the perfect beer to be the face of the program.

Fiver: A New Hazy IPA, A Clear Choice for Castle Island’s Giving Program

castle island brewing co fiver
Photography courtesy of Castle Island Brewing Co.

Officially launched on Friday, August 21st, 2020, Fiver is a juicy tropical IPA with Citra, Simcoe, and El Dorado hops.

“If you are a hop head, you’re going to like it… But if you’re looking for something lighter and softer, Fiver is that approachable hazy IPA,” says Horgan. “It’s really getting back to the local, hazy IPA, because this is New England [afterall].”

Unsurprisingly, in the land of New England-style IPAs, this new hazy from Castle Island resonated like a cannon shot. According to Horgan, Fiver consistently lands in the brewery’s top three best-selling beers, especially at the brewery’s new South Boston taproom.

Which makes sense since the team spent a long time dialing in the recipe. Over countless pilot batches, the production crew tweaked recipes, experimented with different hops, and even listened to feedback from customers and staff.

For that reason, Castle Island took a certain amount of pride in Fiver, making it a perfect choice for the Fiver Initiative.

“We wanted to make sure we picked a beer we’re proud of,” says Horgan. “We have a sign above our loading dock that says: ‘If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it.’ That really ties into everything we do, so having something we really like that’s tasty and approachable for everybody is a big piece.”

The Fiver Initiative Kicked Off with Five Local Partners

castle island brewing co fiver initiative
Photography courtesy of Castle Island Brewing Co.

Last year, Castle Island launched the Fiver Initiative for the first time featuring five partners: The Audubon Society, Facing History and Ourselves, Atlantic Whiteshark Conservancy, Artists for Humanity, and the Doug Flutie Foundation.

To choose the charitable partners, Castle Island formed a Fiver Committee with one or two representing members from each department in the brewery.

Each member had the opportunity to research and present about a partner. For one month, each committee member asked around the taproom, chatted with their fellow coworkers, and explored options in the community.

Afterwards, they presented their findings to the entire committee, who blind voted on the five final partners.

“We wanted to stay local and make sure we found people within our community,” says Horgan.

People like Courtney Ford at Artists for Humanity.

Meet a Fiver Partner: Artists for Humanity

Horgan worked directly with Artists for Humanity as their point of contact last year.

“They have amazing artists and what they can do there is unbelievable,” says Horgan.

The thirty-two-year-old non-profit provides a safe, creative place for teenagers after school to train in all aspects of artistic media including: painting, graphic design, videography, motion design and animation, 3D design, photography, coding, web design, and web development.

Each year, the organization spends over $1M dollars paying all of its teens minimum wage. And the program participants have even worked with real-life clients, designing a giant lobby sculpture for Bank of America and a new sneaker line for the Crossfit company NOBULL, among others.

“To see them flourish…and get their name out there has been big and resounding,” says Horgan.

And the feeling has been mutual. Everything about the partnership from the very first outreach impressed Ford.

As a non-profit, Artists for Humanity is no stranger to requests from for-profit companies to partner at a fundraising event. But Castle Island approached their relationship differently.

“Their interaction was so pleasant and nice and it seemed really philanthropic, true, and from the right place,” says Ford. “The initial outreach from them said this is what we want to do, do you guys want to be a beneficiary? I had to read it a couple times to make sure I wasn’t missing something because sometimes you have to read the fine print, but no, they just wanted to donate proceeds.”

Ford was so impressed with Horgan and the Castle Island team that, even after their time in the Fiver Initiative ended, she kept them in mind.

For example, at a block party the organization threw in September ,she reached out to Castle Island to donate beer. And at their big fundraiser last month, she asked if Castle Island would send beer to their big beer garden.

To both, Castle Island responded with a resounding yes.

“Essentially, they’re yes people,” says Ford. “That’s a really good feeling as a non-profit because that’s how we survive-—on people saying whatever you need, we’ll be there for you.”

castle island brewing co artists for humanity tote bag fiver initiative
Photography courtesy of AFH Graphic Design Studio

Perhaps most importantly, Castle Island has also continued to foster its relationship with Artists for Humanity with its own projects.

When the brewery wanted to design a new tote bag, instead of reaching out to an agency, they called Artists for Humanity.

Horgan worked directly with Artists for Humanity to source four different drawings from their teen participants before choosing their favorite to live on the canvas bag.

According to Ford, the proceeds raised from the program last year went directly into paying wages and putting money specifically in teens’ pockets.

The Fiver Initiative Launches a Lasting Legacy

castle island brewing co fiver initiative
Photography courtesy of Castle Island Brewing Co.

Artists for Humanity is just one example of the legacy Castle Island hopes to build with the Fiver Initiative.

From the beginning, the Fiver Initiative hasn’t just been a program to raise money. Rather one to foster long-lasting relationships with local partners.

Horgan considers all the partners they worked with so far to be legacies.

“It’s not just about giving them money, it’s about learning from each other,” says Horgan. “We’ve had these legacies where…we’re able to continue to share the wealth…whether contributing in-kind donations for our partners’ events, providing space in our taproom, promoting through social channels or helping in other ways.”

For example, when the Doug Flutie Foundation needed a place to host an event, Castle Island volunteered. Or when Artists for Humanity asked for beer donations to two of its fundraising events, Castle Island immediately stepped in to help.

“The impact for me is bigger than the monetary donation—that’s almost secondary,” says Horgan. “For us, the big thing here is developing partnerships versus donating money.”

Although the monetary aspect is nice too. Last year, the program raised just over $20K dollars in total to be split equally amongst all of its partners.

In 2022, they’re expecting to meet and exceed that number for the giving year.

A New Crop of Legacies Joins the Fiver Initiative

castle island brewing co fiver initiative
Photography courtesy of Castle Island Brewing Co.

To ensure that the giving cycle keeps on giving, Castle Island has chosen to rotate new partners every year.

In 2022, after careful research and consideration, the Fiver Committee chose these five new partners to join the program:

Neponset River Watershed Association: A grassroots-supported conservation program. “We’re right in the Neponset River Watershed in Norwood, MA, so how could we not be a part of this one,” says Horgan.

The Matt Brown Foundation: An up-and-coming organization to create support mechanisms for those who have suffered spinal cord injuries, The Matt Brown Foundation is Norwood-based.

YW Boston: Actually the oldest YWCA in the country, YW Boston helps individuals and organizations create policies, practices, attitudes, and behavior changes for making more inclusive environments, particularly for women, People of Color, and women of color.

826 Boston: This is a non-profit writing, tutoring, and publishing organization for students in grades K-12 and beyond.

Neponset Valley Humane Society: The humane society works with fostering animals in the Neponset area. “They are all self-driven,” says Horgan. “They don’t even have their own space, yet they’re providing a lot for the community.”

Horgan is excited to welcome all the new organizations to the program, hoping the brewery can make a difference for each and every one.

Meet a Fiver Partner: Neponset Valley Humane Society

Founded in 1993, Neponset Valley Humane Society has been totally all volunteer and donation-based from the very beginning. The organization works primarily to rescue cats because that’s the biggest issue in the Norwood area.

Their services include: providing foster care for rescue cats, trapping, neutering, and releasing feral cats, running a senior-for-senior program that pairs older cats with folks in senior housing facilities, hosting periodic food drives, and helping to pay medical and veterinary bills for folks who can’t afford it.

neponset valley humane society
Photography courtesy of Neponset Valley Humane Society

For some, like the Neponset Valley Humane Society, who sustain themselves entirely off volunteers and random donations, raising any amount of money will go such a long way. But it’s about more than just the money. “For them, even getting their name out there and being able to say this is who we are has been a really big driving factor for them,” says Horgan.

To that end, Castle Island hosted two Meet the Fiver Partners events this year—one in their Norwood taproom and the other in South Boston—that introduced their local community to this year’s Fiver Initiative partners.

“At the kickoffs, we got to introduce ourselves to a lot of people who weren’t familiar with us and got some new followers on to our mailing list,” says Jan Barris, a volunteer with the Neponset Valley Humane Society. “[Castle Island] has been great, super friendly…and they’re all animal lovers!”

According to Barris, donations raised from the Fiver Initiative will most likely be used to fund the veterinarian care they provide. When the organization rescues a cat, it has to be completely vetted, including blood work, neutering if needed, and treating any other ailment the cat may have sustained from living in the elements.

“It’s just been a very positive experience for us and one we’re so excited about,” says Barris. “We’re so thankful we were chosen for this initiative.

Barris is already looking ahead, hoping to partner with Castle Island to host some events outside in the summer or fall.

What Is the Future of the Fiver Initiative?

castle island brewing co fiver
Photography courtesy of Castle Island Brewing Co.

As we’ve seen in the past, “Beer can be a really powerful part of the community and open doors” says Horgan. “The whole thing about Castle Island is that we want beer to be approachable, so for us, this program allows us to have the most amount of impact.”

With that in mind, Horgan hopes the Fiver Initiative will continue to raise more money, cultivate local partnerships and bring in more people to drink Fiver.

“For me, for beer in general, that camaraderie just having this conversation over a pint can really take down barriers between people and it gives them a commonality,” says Horgan.

Here the common goal is simple: “You can drink beer and do good at the same time,” says Horgan. “Why not!?”