Russian River Brewing Company relaunches Sonoma Pride beer to benefit Kincade fire survivors

The citrusy beer will be sold on draft and in commemorative bottles honoring first responders in early December.|

For the second time in two years, Russian River Brewing Co. is releasing a Sonoma Pride beer to benefit fire survivors from yet another Sonoma County wildfire.

Co-owners Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo made the decision as the Kincade fire raged out of control, forcing them to evacuate their northwest Santa Rosa home and their Windsor brewery.

“It was quite the adventure, I'll tell you,” Natalie Cilurzo said.

Much like Russian River's Sonoma Pride fundraiser during the Tubbs fire, proceeds will be donated to a nonprofit aiding Kincade fire survivors. But this year's fundraiser is less elaborate than the one in 2017, when the brewery partnered with professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge foundation and later became the blueprint for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Resilience IPA during the Camp fire.

The Cilurzos decided against partnering with other breweries to sell Sonoma Pride, so it's simpler to manage. They're concocting this year's version, an India pale lager, while they clean up the smoke damage at Russian River's Windsor location.

The citrusy beer will be sold on draft and in commemorative bottles honoring first responders in early December. It will only be available at the brewery's two locations, although Cilurzo said they may sell it at local businesses affected by the fire.

“Once Vinnie and I select the nonprofit where we will be donating the money, any brewery, anybody at all is welcome to make a donation to that charity on their own,” she said.

The Cilurzos began brewing Sonoma Pride as soon as PG&E restored gas to their Windsor brewery on Nov. 2.

“We were already teed up to brew,” she said. “It was early enough in the day to brew one batch and put it into fermenters.”

After being evacuated from their home, the Cilurzos brought their three cats to their old production brewery in south Santa Rosa. Many of their employees also were evacuated.

“While we were evacuated, somewhere in there - I don't remember what day - we agreed we should brew Sonoma Pride,” she said. “All of it just came to fruition while we were wherever we were.”

She said she didn't realize how close the fire was to Russian River's year-old Windsor brewery, until she used an app on her phone to map the fire's location. The blaze stopped less than a mile away.

Once evacuation orders were downgraded, the Cilurzos drove to Windsor and climbed on the brewery's roof. Cilurzo was shocked when she looked to the east and saw the extent of the damage.

“That was a heart-stopping moment,” she said. “(I thought) ‘oh my God, I can't believe how close it was.' If you were here, you would've seen flames and been running for your life.”

The theme of the benefit beer's label will be a “thank you” to the firefighters who protected Windsor.

“We just wanted to acknowledge and honor, first and foremost, all the first responders,” she said. “Not just local agencies but agencies from all over (who) saved Windsor, saved the whole community from a far worse disaster.

“We do have friends and people we know who lost homes and businesses, which is very, very tragic. We're just grateful the numbers don't look like they did in 2017.”

Other local breweries also are raising funds for fire survivors. Sonoma Springs Brewing Co. is donating some of the proceeds from its Sottile Firehouse Red Ale release party Saturday to the Sonoma Valley Fire Department. Lagunitas Brewing is raising money for the nonprofit First Responders Resiliency Thursday, Nov. 14 at its Petaluma Taproom.

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