Metro Detroit distilleries, wineries and breweries raise a glass to improving the world around them
By Katrianna Ray
In the past few months, Michigan’s distilleries, breweries and wineries have stepped up to join the fight against COVID-19 by producing hand sanitizer in bulk for Michigan’s hospitals, essential workers and the general public. Their efforts have made a difference — more than two dozen local businesses churned out thousands of gallons of the much-needed disinfectant.
But many of these businesses were helping their communities long before the pandemic struck. Whether it’s supporting veterans, spearheading eco-friendly initatives or raising money for kids’ charities, here are four businesses and organizations that put an emphasis on lending a hand.
Aberrant Ales Brewery, Howell
They’ll drink to: Their community
Aberrant Ales Brewery gives a boost to local organizations with its Pint It Forward program, which tacks on an additional dollar to every pint sold of a rotating lineup of beers. Recipients of the brewery’s donations — which typically hit up to $1,200 per quarter — include the Howell Nature Center and Howell Main Street, Inc., a downtown-development collective. “We really wanted this company to be a part of the community,” says owner Clark Gill, who handpicks the charities the brewery supports. “Doing things like this is a way to give back to our customers and local businesses that support us.”
Valentine Distilling Co., Ferndale
They’ll drink to: Sustainability
“Distilling is an energy-intensive process,” says Valentine owner Rifino Valentine. Pre-2019, his operation was using an average of 2,000 gallons of water every day — an amount he wanted to reduce. So last year, Valentine installed a piece of equipment that recycles the same water “over and over again,” he says. “We are able to recapture nearly 98% of the water used.”
The push is just one part of a climate-sustainability initiative that the distillery has committed to over the next decade. The other part: using less electricity. “A distillery’s refrigeration unit is one of its biggest users of electricity,” says Valentine. To that end, the distillery is installing a rooftop unit that “refrigerates” via outside air.
When the temperature dips below 50 degrees, “we basically won’t use our chilling refrigeration at all,” says Valentine. “If we can show that we can still be profitable [with] these resource-saving techniques,” he adds, “then more people will try to do it.”
Sage Creek Winery, Memphis
They’ll drink to: Supporting veterans and animal rescues
Located about 50 miles northeast of Detroit, Sage Creek is known not only for its unique wines — flavors include everything from Sun Crusher (candied grapefruit) to Stargazer (white zinfandel with dragonfruit and raspberries) — but also its commitment to helping veterans. Owned and operated by Vince Hutchins and Jeff Dausey, who both spent 20-plus years in the military, the winery hosts two annual fundraisers that raise thousands of dollars for Vets Returning Home, a Roseville nonprofit that helps vets transition into stable lives.
Another cause close to Sage Creek owners’ hearts: Rescuing animals. This month, the winery will roll out a wine called Puppy Love, with proceeds from sales going toward a local shelter. Says Dausey, “We try to take the pretentiousness out of wine and make it fun.”
Detroit Wine Organization, Farmington Hills
They’ll drink to: Helping children
The Detroit Wine Organization isn’t a winery, but given its longtime devotion to charitable causes, it feels like a natural fit for this list. Every October, the wine club hosts Detroit Uncorked, a tasting event that has raised more than $1.7 million for Metro Detroit charities over the past 15 years. The past four years have benefitted The Rainbow Connection, a charity dedicated to making dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses.