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Never Alone IPA from 1940s Brewing Co. in Holbrook helps raise suicide awareness

Brian Orlando, a DJ with 94.3 "The Shark,"

Brian Orlando, a DJ with 94.3 "The Shark," holds a four-pack of Never Alone IPA. The beer was produced in part to help raise suicide awareness. Credit: TBR News Media/Julianne Mosher

Collaboration beers are usually the result of a few brewers coming together to bring a new concept to life; the brewing sessions themselves can feel pretty festive. A new IPA from 1940s Brewing Co. in Holbrook has a weightier origin story and a more unusual collaboration behind it, one that crosses radio, music, video and craft brewing.

Released a few weeks ago, Never Alone, a citrusy New England-style IPA, is aimed at raising awareness around suicide — something that touched the brewery and its friends closely in 2019. "There is a stigma to talking about mental health," said 1940s brewer and partner Jon Brengel, who produced Never Alone in early February. One dollar from the sale of each four-pack is being donated to efforts to raise suicide awareness. "We hope this will open up that conversation."

The idea for Never Alone stretches back to January 2019, when 1940s was one setting for a video for a song written by Brian Orlando, a DJ at 94.3 FM "The Shark." In 2017, after the suicide of vocalist Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Orlando wrote the lyrics for "Choose Song," an eventual collaboration between him and musicians Brendan B. Brown of Wheatus, Kevin Martin of Candlebox, Vinnie Dombroski and Andy Patalan of Sponge and Josh Devine of One Direction. The video for "Choose Song" wove together scenes of the musicians driving with a finale gathering at 1940s Brewing, where Orlando is a regular. A recurring face in the video is Ashley Massaro, a fellow Shark-FM DJ, as well as a performer, model, former WWE star, onetime "Survivor" contestant and dear friend of Orlando's.

A few months later, Massaro, 39, died by suicide. Plans to release "Choose Song" were put on hold. "We scrapped the entire thing for a year. I wanted nothing to do with it," Orlando said.

When COVID-19 swept in a year later, it fueled a spike in mental illness; though suicide rates in the U.S. dipped in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other indicators of mental illness — such as overdoses — surged. In May 2020, Orlando held a telethon for mental health, and a few months later, with the blessings of Massaro's family, the video for "Choose Song" was released in July 2020. It included the number of a suicide hotline, 1-800-273-TALK.

This winter, Brengel, who has produced several beers to benefit causes, approached Orlando with the idea for a beer to bolster suicide prevention. "It's been humbling to make and sell beer to support the community, and we wanted to give back through suicide awareness," Brengel said.

Brengel brewed Never Alone using Motueka and Mandarina Bavaria hops for uplifting citrusy notes. "We wanted something light and refreshing," Brengel said of the IPA, which was released on Feb. 25; printed on each can is a QR code that brings up the "Choose Life" video. "Maybe it will encourage someone to reach out to someone they haven't spoken to in awhile," Brengel said.

Four-packs of Never Alone are sold for $8 per pint or $17 per four-pack at the brewery, and can be ordered online as well. 1940s Brewing Co. is at 1337 Lincoln Ave. in Holbrook, phone, 1940sbrewingcompany.com.

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