GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids brewery is joining the cause to help Ukraine. This week, Brewery Vivant will debut its new beer called Anyuta Rye Farmhouse Ale, and all proceeds will benefit the country.
The beer's label is outfitted with the Ukrainian crest, donning the blue and yellow colors of the country's flag. It's a tribute that hits close to home for Jason Spaulding, the brewery's CEO.
“It’s just hard to not feel sympathetic to what’s happening," he told FOX 17. "Wishing we could help more, but this is the one thing that we thought we could do to use our craft to try to help in the best way we could.”
Like many others, Spaulding wanted to have a positive impact on the war because of his personal connection to the region.
His grandmother, Anyuta, was born in a village outside the capitol city of Kyiv. Her side of the family still lives over there.
“What’s interesting is, in Ukraine, they don’t have the sound for a ‘J.’ So, my name is Jason, but one of the kids is named after me that I’ve never met before," said Spaulding. "Someday, maybe I’ll meet them, I’m not sure.”
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Spaulding said Anyuta would've been devastated to see everything that's going on. She and her husband moved to Michigan after World War II, working on a farm near Coldwater.
Her pride for Ukraine never left.
“We would have meals and stuff there," said Spaulding. "We would all be around the table. All of a sudden, my grandmother would just stand up on a chair and just start belting out the Ukrainian National Anthem. My grandfather heard that so many times, he was kind of done with it. We all enjoyed it. It could come at the drop of a hat, you just never knew.”
Anyuta is no longer with us, but her story lives on. Now, her name will too, right on the label of Brewery Vivant's latest beer.
The beer is a rye malt base. The special flavor comes from loaves of freshly-baked Ukrainian style bread donated by the Field & Fire bakery in Grand Rapids.
“They weigh like four pounds each," said Spaulding. "He specially baked a dozen loaves for us. Eleven of them made it into the batch, we had to sample one. It really, really affected the beer a lot.”
All proceeds from the beer will be donated to UNICEF. Spaulding said it's a small contribution, but he's happy to help and honor his grandma in the process.
“She wasn’t necessarily a beer drinker, but she supported everything I did," said Spaulding. "I think she’d be pretty proud to know that we’re at least helping. This might’ve been the beer that I could actually get her to try, but I guess we’ll never know.”
Spaulding said the plan is to have the beer packaged Tuesday before it goes on sale Thursday. A four-pack of 16 oz. cans will cost $13.99.