Kevin and Melissa Walter love what they do, owning and operating just a little over a year-old Love City Brewing in Philadelphia.
Like many brewers, they want their customers to be able to enjoy craft beers, as well as local ciders and liquors, in a relaxed atmosphere in their 2,000-square-foot tasting room on Hamilton Street.
What makes Love City Brewing unique, however, is that each quarter, they select a non-profit organization to donate 10 percent of the proceeds of a limited-run brew to as a way to give back to the community.
Kevin, who has been in the beer industry for about a decade, started his career with Iron Hill Brewery, while Melissa was a therapist in Philadelphia.
“Seeing how deep the need is” locally for community-based organizations and non-profits, “I knew we had to build something into our business model,” Melissa said.
In the past, the Walters have used social media to have patrons vote on different places to donate proceeds. But this time, they opened it up to staff.
Mike Tramontana, the brewery’s general manager, lost his father, who was treated at Thomas Jefferson University’s Division of Neuro-Oncology, to brain cancer (glioblastoma) in 2016.
“I knew having gone through that that I wanted to do something to raise money for research,” Tramontana said.
The Walters also have a close friend, Kurt Wonder, former owner of the popular Northern Liberties neighborhood bar, The 700, who is battling the disease. So the decision to donate 10 percent of the proceeds of the new Synapse Session IPA was an easy one for the crew at Love City Brewing to make.
Glioblastoma is the most common primary malignancy in the brain, a tumor that arises in the brain but does not spread outside the central nervous system, explained Dr. David Andrews, a neurosurgeon at Thomas Jefferson University and the Anthony Alfred Chiurco, MD, professor of neurosurgery at Jefferson’s Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neurosciences. “It’s a very infiltrating tumor, so it makes it impossible to cure with surgery,” Andrews said.
Treatment also includes chemotherapy and radiation, though there currently is no cure, and the median prognosis is 16 months from diagnosis, Andrews said.
He is involved in research that takes cells from the tumor and replants some of them in the abdomen to activate the immune system to fight the cancer. Tramontana’s father was part of a first trial, from which Andrews said he hopes the results will be published sometime in the fall. He and colleagues are also working to launch a second trial, hopefully to launch in early 2020.
Philanthropy has made this all possible, Andrews said, noting that surgeons do not have enough time to write federal grants, which are harder and harder to come by.
The Love City Brewing IPA, from which 10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Jefferson’s research into glioblastoma, is named “Synapse” to include a reference to the brain.
Staff from Jefferson visited Love City to help create the IPA, which is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Simcoe hops for citrus and light pine character. It is a light IPA however, only 4.8 percent ABV.
“So you can have a couple and not feel guilty,” Tramontana said.
The Synapse may last until September, “but in the first weekend, it was doing really well,” Tramontana said. In addition to being a refreshing summer beer, “people are really latching onto the cause.”
Proceeds from the next charitable brew, due to hit the tap in October, will go to Big Hearts to Little Hearts, whose mission is to fund research for young heart patients. A Love City bartender’s daughter had to undergo open-heart surgery and is now thriving, Tramontana said.