More Helpful, Less Wicked

Old-school Pete's gang gets back together for a charity brew.

In the early 1990s, Pete's Wicked Ale was one of the first American microbrews I ever tried, it being of particular ease for teenage me to procure from the basement tap at a friend's house. Pete's wasn't just a gateway beer for me: In a day when microbrews barely registered as a blip in most markets, this brown ale, more lovely than wicked, served as one of the most popular introductions to nonlager beer in the States. Wicked Ale won us over with the smooth sweetness of malt at first and its quick hit of hops going down. Pete Slosberg may have sold his namesake brewery years ago, but he still keeps his hand in the beer world. Recently, his longtime friend and onetime employee, Virginia McLean, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Former Pete's sales manager Alan Shapiro contacted Slosberg about getting the Wicked gang back together for a charity project in her honor. All of the profits of the brew they have named "Reunion: A Beer for Hope" will benefit the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research (IMBCR). Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells—white blood cells responsible for making antibodies—that congregate in the bone marrow. At present, forms of treatment for myeloma include radiation, anti-cancer drugs, stem-cell transplantation, steroids, and vitamins. Rather than enroll patients in traditional double-blind clinical trials, the institute investigates how to combine many avenues of treatment to fit each individual. This novel approach to cancer research may someday help scientists better understand the biology of other forms of cancer that can metastasize to bone marrow, such as breast and prostate cancer and lymphoma. Alcohol for health-oriented nonprofits is tricky territory. Many charities hesitate to associate themselves directly with alcoholic beverages due to the public's conflicting attitudes toward alcohol. But with the blessing of the IMBCR and the help of Dan DelGrande of Bison Brewing in Berkeley, Calif., Slosberg created a certified-organic, bottle-conditioned imperial brown ale. Reunion is a bigger, bolder brown than Pete's Wicked and has a molasses-and-graham flavor. Yet the ale finishes lightly with little bitterness. The inaugural release of Reunion amounts to just under 1,000 cases of 22-ounce bottles (sold for $4.99 each), which Shapiro distributes nationally through his company, SBS Imports. So far, the beer has met with much success in California, Illinois, and Colorado; it hits our market, last but not least, this week. The team now wants Reunion: A Beer for Hope to become an annual project. They plan to try out different styles, expand production beyond 1,000 cases, and work on more charity-oriented collaborations within the brewing industry. "To use whatever skills I have to be able to raise funds and awareness for this cause is a privilege," Shapiro says. To find a store near you or to donate directly to the IMBCR, visit

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