By Steve Graham
Photos provided by Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity
Joe McClellan helps craft cask-conditioned beers, but soon will return to his background in crafting homes — at least for a few hours.
McClellan works at one of 12 breweries providing funding and volunteer hours for the House That Beer Built II (HTBBII), a Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity homebuilding project. Local breweries already helped build one area home, and have inspired breweries around the country to sponsor similar projects.
“I’ve been a builder since I was in my teens,” said McClellan. “I worked on a Habitat for Humanity house before and I just love the whole concept. It’s awesome.”
McClellan tends bar at McClellan’s Brewing, a family pub owned by his son Joey. It is one of the newest breweries in Fort Collins, and one of the newest partners in the HTBB project.
In 2013, eight area breweries worked together to help rebuild a Rist Canyon house that had been destroyed by the High Park fire in 2012. That project meant the Andrasik family, a single mother and her three kids, had a home once again.
Karla Baise, community outreach coordinator at Odell Brewing, planted the first seed for HTBB, and invited other brewers to join the effort.
“Karla said ‘we wanted to do something but let’s get all the breweries together before we decide what to do and when,’” said Kristin Candella, executive director of Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity.
Candella organized a meeting with the brewers and the Andrasik family.
“This particular family telling their story was really compelling and impactful,” she said.
Baise said the breweries see the project as a way to give back to a supportive community.
“What better way to say ‘thank you’ to the communities that give us, at the very least, a chance at success, than to build something tangible and narrow our gratitude into a home for a wonderful family,” she said.
Three years later, four more breweries and several other local businesses are on board for a second project. They plan to raise $100,000 to build a home in partnership with the Beavers family. The two parents and two kids have moved four times in the last five years, struggling to find affordable housing.
Like all Habitat families, the Beavers put in hundreds of hours to help build the home. They also pay closing costs and make zero-interest mortgage payments, which help fund future Habitat projects.
The Beavers family owns a small tie-dye business and travels to area festivals with local brewers, so they were excited to work together on the Habitat home. The breweries are also enthusiastic about the project.
“They are really invested in their community,” said Raquel Martinez of Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity. “It’s encouraging to see small business owners really put their actions behind what they want in their community.”
Odell hosted a small batch festival in May, and Mishawaka Amphitheatre donated money from each ticket sale in June. The fundraising effort ramps up in earnest in July, with special tappings and other events at each brewery. Work also begins on the home this summer, with volunteer hours provided by brewery staff and customers alike.
“They invite their fans to give along with them and work along with them,” said Candella, who added that 300 to 400 volunteers work on each Habitat home.
Candella said she was inspired by the collaborative nature of all the local breweries.
“They really believe in working together,” she said.
After the Beavers project, Candella expects the project to expand into the Block That Beer Built, a small housing development in Fort Collins that recently received city planning approval.
Steve Graham is a Fort Collins writer who enjoys the outdoors and great beer.