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Microbrews, Microloans and Monday Night

By Joel Iverson

You may have noticed that we’ve been releasing a few beers brewed with honey.

A couple months ago, Buzzworthy—an IPA brewed with honey—was added to the Hop Hut. And most recently, we put Micro Honey – our honey saison on tap. There’s a reason for that.

Of course, one of the reasons is that we like honey. However, another big reason has to do with microeconomics. Seriously.

Five years ago—when we opened our doors at our West Midtown facility—one of the first gatherings we did was called Microbrews for Microloans. More than 300 people attended to hear my friend Chris Chancey share stories of how microlending is helping small businesses around the globe. I had heard about microloans before, but the full potential of the idea never really sunk in until I heard these stories. As Chris shared how even a small loan can make a monumental impact in building a business, I started to take stock of how much access to capital had changed my life. If it weren’t for loans, I never could have gone to college, and if it were not for some investors and a bank willing to lend money, we never would have been able to start this brewery. We quickly take for granted the (mostly) stable banks we have in our country, and the access to non-predatory lending at reasonable interest rates. My own knowledge of microlending goes back 20 years—to my roommate spending a summer in Bangladesh with the Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank—but I didn’t fully appreciate its potential until starting a business myself.

We continued to support Microbrews for Microloans over the years, but inspiration really hit in 2016: we decided to try to make a beer with an ingredient from a microloan recipient. After some (considerable) effort, we managed to get 35 lbs. of honey from Valentin, an owner of a small apiary in the Dominican Republic. Through the program, he received a $345 loan that allowed him to go from three hives to 35. Now, he had a sustainable business that would support his family, and has since been able to repay those loans and take out new ones to further expand.

Valentin with the honey from his apiary.
Valentin’s bees pollinate in the shadow of this massive mango tree. He believes the right flora helps bees helps create the most delicious honey…and we agree!

With the honey from Valentin’s apiary, we brewed up a delicious tropical IPA. The notes from the honey came through beautifully…you could almost taste the mango from under the tree where his bees pollinate!

Then in 2017, we upped the ante by traveling to Ukraine. There, we met some farmers, got some ingredients, and really put faces and stories to the process of microlending. This trip included me, our brewer Josh, and my 6-year-old son (it was his spring break, so why not spend it learning and gaining a global perspective!) You may remember the beer that came out this trip, Slava Ukraine—brewed with Ukrainian hops, beet sugar, and honey. After the trip, we had the privilege of hosting Andre and Andre (turns out Andre is a popular name in Ukraine) in Atlanta for the launch of Slava Ukraine, with the proceeds going toward additional microloan funding.

Josh, Joel and Oliver with Vassav, who used his microloan to lease more land and install irrigation. The result? More consistent and plentiful harvests, which he has reinvested into growing his business.  Also, 6-year-old boys are great at smiling for pictures when asked…sometimes.
Josh, Joel, Oliver and the two Andres in a former resistance bunker (now turned restaurant) in Lviv. During the years of the USSR, this bunker was used as a gathering place for those resisting communism.
Joel and Oliver visiting a tomato greenhouse in Western Ukraine.
Oliver posing in one of many greenhouses we visited (that were funded by microloans). The cost of a greenhouse is high to get started, but the payoff is remarkable, as it allows the farmer to grow throughout the colder months.

And now, in 2018, we have completed the third installment of creating a beer to support microloans. This one is called Micro Honey. A delicious French saison, Micro Honey features another batch of honey from Valentin, and was brewed by Monday Night’s own Sarah Green (who happens to love saisons and honey). This beer is on draft only, and we’ll be donating $1 from every pint to microloans in Valentin’s community in the Dominican Republic.

Brewer Sarah Green came up with the recipe for our honey saison.

At this point, I could launch into some deep ramblings of how we were sojourners, how we helped people, and how we discovered ourselves. But I’ll spare you, and instead share just a few things we learned and a few pictures of our journey.

Microlending may never make news headlines. But it is a way to directly change lives by helping entrepreneurs in a tangible way. Just a few hundred dollars can change the trajectory of a business and a family. It’s a small way to deepen human relationships around the globe.

We encourage you to check out microlending programs like Hope International, Kiva, FINCA, Grameen Foundation to support your fellow citizens of the world. And who knows? You just may get some good beer out of it.

Joel Iverson is COO and co-founder of Monday Night Brewing.

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