Langford non-profit trying to brew up support for veterans

A new brewery in Langford is hoping a fundraising campaign can do what federal relief programs could not: keep its kettles firing and beer flowing.

V2V Black Hops Brewing, owned by Canadian military veterans, launched the crowd-funding campaign in April when it realized it would be facing rent payments, but would not be eligible to participate in the various government relief programs designed to help businesses weather the COVID-19 storm.

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“I had mixed feelings about [crowd-funding], but we do need some help,” said Graeme Hafey, majority owner and a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. 

The brewery was started in 2018 as a non-profit that made beer within other breweries to raise money for veterans’ groups. A bricks-and-mortar presence was established in February of this year when Hafey and a group of investors bought the assets of Axe & Barrel Brewing on Millstream Road, beside the Loghouse Pub.

Just a month later, the tasting room and its revenue were shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The tasting room is a huge percentage of our revenue,” said Hafey, noting the brewery sells beer to a number of private liquor stores and some bars. “But the bars and pubs are also closed, so no one is ordering kegs.”

They are trying to sustain themselves by running a makeshift no-contact drive-thru business at the brewery, opening up online sales for delivery and doing what they can with volunteer help. Hafey and his brewmaster are not drawing salaries.

But it’s not just V2V Black Hops taking a financial hit.

The company — V2V stands for Veterans to Veterans — was set up to benefit veterans. A percentage of sales are donated to organizations that help military veterans and first responders.

Hafey, who served for 21 years, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and knows only too well the need for programs to helps veterans cope.

“We are essentially a full-fledged business, but the aim is to help military veterans and first responders,” he said, noting the point-of-sale system is set up to take a percentage of beer sales and set them aside to be donated.

The brewery already supports Can Praxis, an equine-assisted therapy service that helps veterans and their families dealing with stress, Colwood’s Cockrell House, which provides transitional housing and services to help ex-military personnel integrate back into society, and B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs.

“Right now, there’s no donating going on,” said Hafey, adding many of the events the brewery intended to take part in this summer have also been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Hafey said the brewery probably has a few months of life in it yet if they can negotiate a break in rent with the landlord, stimulate beer sales and tap into the broader community for a little help.

“We have to stop the financial bleeding,” he said, noting they are hoping restrictions will be relaxed over the next month or so — even if that means opening at 50 per cent of capacity.

“So, right now, we are promoting like crazy and doing whatever we can,” he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the campaign (gofundme.com/f/v2v-black-hops-brewing) had raised $2,285 of the $15,000 goal.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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