Throughout history, beer has been used as both currency and barter, to trade for goods or pay workers for their labor. On Long Island — at least for nine days this spring — cans of a limited-release India pale ale will reprise that role, in this case to be traded for food for the hungry.
The beer, Craft Cares Bi-Coastal IPA, began its life on March 20, when local brewers converged at Fire Island Beer Company in Bay Shore for an epic collaboration: an IPA using barley and flaked rye, plus locally grown Cascade, Nugget and Tahoma hops, all of them donated. It was later dry-hopped and, on April 3, it was canned.
The beer combines both juicy New England and hop-forward West Coast IPA styles (hence its name) and the only way to get your mitts on some is by trading two cans of food during Long Island Craft Beer Week, which runs from May 11 to 20.
“Long Island brewing is an industry, but it also functions as community,” said Jacki Brandi, co-president of beer week. Since 2011, Long Island Craft Beer Week has brought that community together via special events (this year, those include cask events, town takeovers and an alternating focus on Suffolk and Nassau counties). Three years ago, Long Island Craft Beer Week introduced a charitable element — the Can for a Can food drive, which has helped collect thousands of pounds of food over the years for Long Island Cares.
This year, Brandi hopes the powerful draw of an IPA will push donations way above last year’s — from 3,500 pounds to over 5,000. “IPAs get a lot of attention, and we really wanted to kick up the donations further,” she said. To up the ante, three local brewers have offered to shave their beards if the drive hits its goal.
And that IPA? It’s hazy and juicy, with a robust pinelike simmer, and you can trade for it at dozens of locations listed on the Long Island Craft Beer Week website, libcw.us.