January 23, 2020
By Ross Purnell
Earlier this year we reported on a new product from SweetWater Brewing Company called Guide Beer. Guide Beer is a crisp brew with low alcohol content, the kind of thing that smashes your thirst on a hot summer afternoon, but still keeps you on your toes for the evening hatch. The idea behind the easy-drinking American lager was to direct 11% of all profits from sales of the beer into a fund to help alleviate unexpected expenses caused by medical bills, natural disasters, and other hardships common to the seasonal lifestyles of fly-fishing guides.
The idea of a fund for guides sounded like something all fly fishers could get behind, but there were questions: How long would it take to start helping guides, how much money would this add up to, and how long would it take? It didn’t take long to get answers.
Guide Beer first went on sale in March 2019 and in July, SweetWater founder Freddy Bensch quietly and personally awarded the first Guide Beer grant when he handed a $15,000 check to flats guide Cleve Evans. The two were in Evans’s yard in the Florida Panhandle near Mexico Beach, where Category 5 Hurricane Michael (October 2018) hit the hardest.
“What you guys do as guides is not just fishing, it’s really introducing people to the environment, showing them what’s going on, and hopefully leaving these people you are taking fishing with a different mindset,” Bensch told Evans. “Your guests learn how sensitive the environment is, but they also see the kind of lifestyle you lead . . . you know it’s hand-to-mouth, and sh!t happens. It’s heavy. That’s why SweetWater is proud to help you guys out.”
Evans’s home had 4 feet of water in the basement and suffered structural damage so severe that engineers deemed it unrecoverable, yet FEMA has been of little assistance, and the insurance company refuses to adequately cover the damage. When I met Evans in November 2018, he was trying to make ends meet by guiding in Venice, Louisiana, while his wife lived in a Florida hotel trying to get assistance from FEMA and/or the insurance company. Today they are still living in a trailer on their property, but Evans says the Guide Beer grant will go a long way to getting them back into their home.
SweetWater will announce the recipient of the next Guide Beer grant at the “Party on the Pond” Oct. 17 at the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Denver.