clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How a Firefighter-Owned Sonoma Brewery Gives Back During a Tragedy

St. Florian’s was lucky, and won’t take that for granted

Julie Hughes Photography

Amy Levin, CEO of the five-year-old Sonoma County brewery St. Florian’s, admits she’s “kind of partial” to her local fire department in Windsor, California. Her husband and head brewer, Aron Levin, is a department captain — hence the brewery name, in honor of the patron saint of firefighters.

“The fire department has done an amazing job keeping us safe, and pushing back the fire lines,” says Levin, whose brewery and taproom, like Windsor itself, has been spared. That seems to be true of most breweries in Sonoma and Napa: The growing local beer industry, which is still overshadowed by the established winemaking business, has been hit significantly less hard by the blaze.

According to the Mercury News, breweries like Bear Republic in Healdsburg and Carneros Brewing in Sonoma have been evacuated but aren’t necessarily damaged. Moonlight Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa was just missed. Russian River Brewing Co. writes that “While many of our employees are still evacuated, we have a large enough crew to stay open today.” Third Street AleWorks, also in Santa Rosa, is open, as are breweries like HenHouse and Lagunitas in Petaluma, a town that’s been unscathed.

But while Amy Levin counts her blessings, she and the North Bay brewing industry are surrounded by loss, and her husband and other firefighters are still struggling to contain the devastating fires.

St. Florian’s Brewery has always had a social mission, donating a minimum of five percent of profits to fire-related and community-based organizations. Now, Levin is kicking that cause into high gear, planning a fire relief fundraiser event to be held this Saturday.

“Our biggest focus is on all of our friends and our community, and how to support them,” Levin tells Eater. “Rather than sit here and be nervous about what’s going on around us, we say to ourselves, how do we support people who have experienced loss already? Because, there’s a lot of loss up here.”

Multiple Wildfires Continue To Ravage California Wine Country Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m., St. Florian’s (7704 Bell Road) will host a Fire Relief event with a live band, a food truck, and plenty of beer. They’ll also host a food drive and a “fill the boot” fundraiser for 501c3 organizations like Go Fund a Hero and the Redwood Credit Union.

But the event is also about providing a much-needed morale boost. “Friends of ours will be playing music, and bringing together a bit of normalcy, to the degree that’s possible,” says Levin. It’s also about the kids, like the Levins’ seven and eight-year-old sons, who are cooped up inside without school. “We’ve all been trying to connect the kids, so they’re not terrified.”

Levin says her children have a different perspective as members of a “fire family,” and they’re even helping with the fundraiser, collecting CRV cans and bottles. But they haven’t seen their father for more than a brief visit since Sunday. Meanwhile, Amy has only had in intermittent contact with him by text and by phone.

In their messages, Amy tried “to take the weight off” Aron’s shoulders, “knowing that there was a lot of weight on them.” By her count, 40 firefighters working alongside him have lost their homes.

It’s not clear when Aron will be back for good, let alone drinking in Windsor or brewing the next batch of St. Florian’s beer. For now, their brewery motto will have to suffice: “Let’s Drink to the hero in all of us.”