As women, we are groomed from an early age to be hyper vigilant in seeking out the love of our lives. From the playground to college and beyond—finding, meeting, and attracting that one true love is expected of us, along with getting an education and starting a career. Even if it isn’t high on our own priority lists, it often ranks high on our friends’ and family’s priority lists for us. So, it was nice to hear Lisa McDonald of Sanctuary Brewing refer to her beloved dog Nala, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, as “one of the great loves of my life.” She was Lisa’s best friend for 15 ½ years before she passed away.
“The last three years of her life, we moved to the beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago so she could live out her golden years in style. She got to go swimming each day in the summer, which helped her joints. When we lost Nala, it left such a giant hole in my heart that it kind of set me up to have to save as many animals as I could,” Lisa said.
At the time, Lisa and her husband Joe had one other dog and a cat. Lisa was working as a business consultant, and Joe had given up his accounting career and gone from homebrewing to working fulltime at Goose Island Brewing Company. When the couple relocated to North Carolina a few years ago, they immediately began fostering animals through Brother Wolf and other animal rehoming organizations. In their first year alone, they fostered some forty animals. Eventually, they decided to adopt as well. Before long, they became the permanent home to two dogs, five cats, a pig, and a few chickens.
Lisa continued to travel with her work as a business consultant. Joe attended the brewing courses at Blue Ridge Community College that were offered in conjunction with Oskar Blues Brewing in Brevard. His previous experience along with the education he received led to an internship with Wicked Weed. His internship became a fulltime job, and eventually led to a job at The Funkatorium. Both Lisa and Joe were happy with where they were in life, but still dreamed of opening their own brewery one day. Maybe they could earn enough to also open an animal sanctuary. It was then that they realized that, “Oh! This doesn’t have to be two separate things. It was a cathartic moment for us. We trademarked the name Sanctuary Brewing the next day,” Lisa recalls.
Lisa and Joe got busy forming and writing a business plan. While Lisa had a lot of business experience, and Joe had a lot of brewing experience, neither had ever started a brewery before. So Joe sought out Mountain Biz Works to help fill in the missing pieces of their puzzle. “We were starting to get our business plan fleshed out, but we still needed to look at the financials, which meant finding out what we would need to pay for rent. We were only looking to fill in a cell on a spreadsheet, but in doing our preliminary research, we found our location. We knew it would go fast, and that we would have to move quickly. It was so perfect and so terrifying at the same time. But we were nothing if not prepared,” Lisa said. With her background in business, she knew how to run a project, put together business documents, and create and schedule events.
Sanctuary opened in August 2015, serving the local animal population as well as the human community of Henderson County. In addition to raising money and hosting adoption events for local animal organizations like Brother Wolf, Sanctuary Brewing also hosts a community meal each Sunday. It’s a hot meal offered free to the public and is cruelty free, as well. Lisa has been a vegetarian for eleven years. Three years ago, she went vegan, and she hopes she is changing the way people in Hendersonville think about vegan food. In addition to Sunday meals, Sanctuary has designated one wall of their building’s exterior as ‘The Kindness Wall.’ In the winter, those with excess can donate hats, scarves, and coats. In the summer time, there are bags filled with necessities like toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors, tampons, hand sanitizer, and bottles of water. Whoever is in need has anonymous access to these items 24/7. They don’t have to come inside or explain why they are down on their luck. They take what they need, and leave what they don’t.
Two or three nights a week, Sanctuary hosts a fundraiser for a local organization doing great things in their community. A portion from the nights’ pint sales goes toward the organization featured. “One of the things that keeps me motivated everyday are the people I meet through these fundraisers that are kicking ass in the world,” Lisa said. Sanctuary Brewing is also home to live music every weekend, and Lisa is thrilled they can help support the hot bed of great talent that Hendersonville, Asheville, and the greater WNC area has to offer.
“We just happen to have great acoustics inside the brewery, so musicians love playing here. I’m so excited that all of these pieces come together in a way that allows us to offer a safe, relaxing, peaceful environment to be in.”
With everything that Lisa and Joe are able to offer the community, they also make really great beer. “We both love animals and beer, but Joe has a fierce love of beer, and I have a fierce love of animals. That’s why we are on two distinct, yet parallel tracks with our lives,” Lisa explains. “Joe is remarkably talented. He is crafting an amazing product as well as facilitating this community outreach. We competed in GABF (Great American Beer Festival) our first year open, and we got tons of positive feedback from the judges.” While Sanctuary offers a wide array of styles from Kölsch to IPA’s to Browns to Stouts, some of Lisa’s favorites are the saisons and the sours that Joe makes in the brewery’s three-barrel brew system. She loves that they can support local farmers by using their fruit in the Raspberry Beret, a raspberry saison. She’s also a fan of Sanctuary’s tart Berliner Weisse series they lovingly call Hendo Weisse. Joe’s experience at the Funkatorium has certainly prepared him for kettle souring and barrel souring beers.
As Joe and Lisa look into the future for Sanctuary Brewing, they would love to be able to make more beer and save more animals—maybe even add a vegan restaurant and offer community education in compassion to all living creatures. They are in the process of filing for a 501c3 license for their animal sanctuary and hoping to expand their brewing system very soon. To see what Nala will inspire next and to learn more, visit their website at www.sanctuarybrewco.com.
Anita Riley is the Cellar Operator at Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NC and the Pink Boots Society Representative for the Triad Region. She is a Certified Beer Server Cicerone and studied Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation at AB Tech, as well as Rockingham Community College in Riedsville, NC. Her book “Brewing Ambition” benefits The Pink Boots Society’s Scholarship Fund which encourages, inspires, and assists women beer professionals to further their careers through education. “Brewing Ambition” can be found at Lulu.com. Find Anita’s blog, Brewing Up a Storm, which focuses on women in the beer industry, at www.metrowinesasheville.com/brew-blog. Anita is a native to North Carolina.