Drinking on the job might be frowned upon, but one local union’s partnership with a brewery will benefit the community, specifically the 5Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC).
The Five Cities Firefighters Local 4403 teamed up with Humdinger Brewing in Arroyo Grande to produce the special Boots and Hose beer. The citrus blonde ale debuted on Sept. 28 at the brewery’s flagship Arroyo Grande and new San Luis Obispo locations, and a portion of the sales will be donated to the homeless nonprofit.
Firefighters union President Jeff Lane told the Sun that the group zeroed in on 5CHC because they were impressed with the organization’s efforts in creating the Cabins for Change temporary housing program in Grover Beach.
“A lot of times the big organizations get a lot of money, and any amount of money that we donate is good to whoever needs it,” Lane said on Sept. 29. “But to give it to someone … who needs the money [and is] as local as in your own backyard makes the most sense to us.”
Multiple officials from the Five Cities—like Arroyo Grande City Councilmember Lan George—also serve on the 5CHC board. George became the bridge between the union and 5CHC, ultimately making way for Humdinger Brewing co-owner Laura Beth Amy to coordinate with the 5CHC Executive Director Janna Nichols.
Amy’s husband and Humdinger Brewing co-owner Justin Amy then created Boots and Hose, capping off about three months of planning and discussions with the firefighters union.
“Boots and Hose is a citrus blond ale fermented with White Labs WLP029 Kolsch yeast, cascade and Columbus hops,” Justin said.
At the whirlpool stage—when the paddle vigorously stirs a batch of beer—he adds sweet orange peels for the citrus punch. The result is a bright drink reminiscent of a classic Modelo but with the lime wedge already added in.
“This is an easy-drinking all-day beer that will keep you coming back for more,” Justin said.
That’s exactly what Lane and the other firefighters asked for. They arrived at the brewery with their families on the afternoon of Sept. 29, all to taste the beer for the first time and celebrate. Lane’s verdict: It’s a good summer beer best enjoyed in your backyard with barbecue and chips and salsa.
At 5 percent alcohol by volume, Boots and Hose is ideal to sip while soaking in the last dregs of sunshine before fall truly hits San Luis Obispo County. It was originally slated to be released in peak summer but got delayed.
The tongue-in-cheek name is also a later addition. Lane said that many firefighters ended up working for almost a month or two straight without adequate downtime because of strike-team assignments. Those unusually long hours initially inspired a different name for the brew.
“All the money’s reimbursed through the state when you go out on strike teams,” he said. “We were all, ‘Let’s name the beer Work-Life Balance,’ because there has to be a separation where you disconnect, and you go and relax. But Boots and Hose was such an easy pun!”
Both the firefighters union and the brewery will match funds through Boots and Hose sales. Each group will donate $1 to 5CHC for every pint sold. The firefighters union will cap their donations at 500 pints, and that money comes from the sum the firefighters pay into dues.
“Then every month, we save $10 apiece among 22 members to build up our funds to give to charitable events,” Lane said.
Humdinger’s Amy told the Sun on Sept. 29 that the Arroyo Grande brewery had sold 43 Boots and Hose pints since it debuted the day before. By Oct. 20, that location had sold 550 pints.
Humdinger also recently branched into a new taproom in SLO, which opened this June. Customers can try Boots and Hose there as well, along with some of the more experimental brews from Arroyo Grande. Sales for the blonde ale were initially a little slow at the new taproom, but Amy and the firefighters union hope more people will try it—as of Oct. 20, they’d sold 146 pints in SLO.
By early November, Boots and Hose will be available in cans at both Humdinger locations, and the union and the brewery are making plans for a darker, winter edition of the beer too.
Until then, locals can try Boots and Hose at the Arroyo Grande Beer and Wine Festival on Nov. 4. It’s already had its first foray into the community when it was featured at SLO Oktoberfest on Oct. 8.
The Humdinger team regularly helps the community whenever it can. The brewery’s donated proceeds to help locals in Maui affected by the recent wildfires, and it also partnered with LGBTQ-plus group 5 Cities Hope for a Beers for Queers event.
Before Boots and Hose appeared, the brewery matched funds through sales of another beer—an Irish red ale called McDermott.
“Last year, one of my really good friends passed away from cancer,” Amy said. “We made a beer in his honor, and we donate a dollar from every pint we sell to his family.”
The donations are ongoing, and McDermott is still available on tap.
New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal, from the Sun’s sister paper, is weathering the Central Coast fall warmth with two pints of ale. Send coasters to [email protected].