A beer about something: 3 breweries collaborate on SereniTEA Now for charity

It’s a beer. It’s a tea. It’s both! And, the best part is that a portion of the proceeds go to the Agora Crisis Center.

The generous trio of Canteen Brewhouse, High and Dry Brewing, and Steel Bender Brewyard are at it again, teaming up to help a worthy local nonprofit with a collaboration beer and some special events.

Agora Crisis Center, a student organization at the University of New Mexico, is the recipient, just like in 2019, the last time the breweries got together to brew and show their support. The breweries also teamed up last month to help Pink Warrior House, so in a way, they are all quite experienced at working out all the details and making sure the money goes to the right cause.

SereniTEA Now, and yes, that is a Seinfeld reference, is the beer in question. Brewed at High and Dry by head brewers Andrew Kalemba, Zach Guilmette, and Bob Haggerty, it will be released over three consecutive Tuesdays at each brewery.

“The whole idea, the genesis of this idea goes all the way back to 2018, early days,” Kalemba said. “We did a beer, a Movember beer with Steel Bender, the Wee Stache.”

Rather than just support something on a national or general level, Kalemba said the breweries began talking the following year about offering more direct support to a local nonprofit with the same mission.

“The three of us have been raising funds (separately) for Agora for several years now, but we believe it’s more important than ever to get funds to the organization to keep supporting their volunteers,” Steel Bender co-owner/marketing director Shelby Chant wrote in an email response. “Even more importantly, we want to do all we can to get the word out about Agora’s services and how accessible they are. A lot of people are hurting and need help, it’s as simple and tragic as that.”

For the folks at Agora, it was a partnership that they could not possibly pass up.

“Agora is a student organization at UNM, and we operate on a very, very small budget,” wrote Agora director Molly Brack. “Any donations help us to recruit, train and supervise volunteers who answer the helplines. Funding also helps us to provide suicide awareness and intervention training to kids and adults throughout the community. Last year, we trained nearly 4,000 people in how to help someone who is in distress and may be considering suicide.”

A couple of the folks on the right there look awfully familiar from the adult coloring night at Canteen in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Steel Bender)

The beer brewed in 2019 was named For Your SaniTEA, and was brewed in a large-batch format at Canteen, and then sold all November at each brewery. Rather than go with that same format this time around, Kalemba suggested to his fellow brewers that they go with a smaller batch and make it a more exclusive release, paired up with a particular special event that they also did two years ago.

“What we wanted to do with this one was to flip the plan on its head a little bit, rather than brew a big batch at Steel Bender or Canteen, let’s come over here and do one, and look at it more as a limited release,” Kalemba said. “Starting (this) week, Tuesday, Canteen is going to tap it and they’re going to have one of the coloring pages available. This year we’ll have Agora on site for that kickoff event. The coloring page will be available all month (and) we’re doing a $5 donation on those, which kicks back straight to Agora. That way we’re not getting a bunch of people packed into a room (at once).”

One dollar from every pint of SereniTEA Now! will go directly to Agora, and customers will have a chance to donate directly if they choose. The special coloring sheets, with a different one available at each participating brewery, will be available all day, and as Kalemba said, from that day forward as long as they last. You can bring your own coloring items, or there should be some colored pencils and the like available.

As for the beer, Kalemba said it is a further evolution of For Your SaniTEA.

“Just like the last one, it’s based off a Gruit, so classic, non-hopped beer,” he said. “All the bitterness and flavors are coming from herbs and a bunch of weird, medieval stuff, Harry Potter-sounding ingredients. We did a skullcap (herb) for bittering. Then we made a tea with chamomile, St. John’s wort, lemon balm, and did a post fermentation infusion of all that.”

An advance sample pour was a welcome help to understand this beer. It has a strong aroma like you might find in a more pungent tea, but the actual flavor is nothing like the aroma, instead it has a sweet, almost subtle roll on the palate, with elements of corn, oats, and a hint of citrus from the lemon balm.

“I don’t know what I’d necessarily compare this to; it still feels like a beer, but it’s a tea, too,” Kalemba said. “It’s bizarre, but I want more.”

Yeah, that about sums it up. The release dates will be on consecutive Tuesdays, with Canteen starting it off this week, then High and Dry will be right before Thanksgiving, and Steel Bender will wrap it up after the holiday.

This year’s coloring sheets are every bit as awesome as this one was in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Steel Bender)

The beer may not be for everyone, but it goes to a worthy cause, and that alone should be worth the price of a pint.

“Agora’s mission is to provide free, confidential, compassionate help to anyone in need of emotional support,” Brack wrote. “Our services include phone and chat helplines, community training and education, and volunteer opportunities. We have about 100 volunteers who answer our helplines, and we are one of the oldest crisis centers in the country. We were founded at UNM in 1970, and have been serving the whole state ever since.”

And, as Chant has told us many times throughout the last year-plus of this pandemic world, the long-term mental health impacts on all of us could be greater than the virus itself.

“My dad’s an adolescent psychologist, and we were talking about how much COVID has impacted mental health, how busy everyone in his practice is right now,” she wrote. “He said to imagine how the Olympic rings overlap (he likes his sport analogies). One ring is depression, one ring is all the anxiety disorders, and then add a third ring that is COVID. Where those three overlap, that is Hell.”

We raise our glasses once again to salute the trio of Canteen, High and Dry, and Steel Bender, and thank them for all they do to help our community.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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