Giving Back to Communities a Key in Business, Awards & Honors

Sticking to, and even strengthening, its business philosophies since opening four years ago, American River Brewing Company founder David Mathis keeps it plain and simple.

“We strive to be the best brewers and give back to the community both morally and ethically,” he said.

The 20-year veteran of the craft beer industry has backed up those promises both ways, by winning regional awards for its beer — including back-to-back golds at the California State Fair for its flagship “Coloma Brown” American Ale in 2015 and 2016 — along with head brewer Andy Armstrong, and by giving back in both money and time with charity work in Rancho Cordova, California, near Sacramento.

Since the brewery’s founding in 2012 it has donated a portion of the proceeds from its “Firebreak” Red Ale to the Firefighters Burn Institute, benefiting the survivors of burn injuries. Mathis said the Sacramento-area charity was something that spoke to him.

“I’ve always felt a connection to firefighters,” he said. “They are putting their lives out on the line for us to keep us safe whether forestry or on the commercial business or home level. There are times I feel that there are more that we can do to recognize what they do for us. So I wanted to do something to help bring recognition for what firefighters do.”

American River also works with its local Rotary Club and police charities as well.

Those traits as a craft brewer and a community servant helped led American River and four other breweries in the state to be named a “Small Business of the Year” during a ceremony on California Small Business Day. American River was the nominee for District 8, signed off for the honor from local Assemblyman Ken Cooley. Mathis called it “massive.”


“We’ve always hoped we would get recognition for our beers. We take great pride in our beers,” he said. “But to be recognized for the work that we do as a company, that is unexpected and we are very honored about that.”

American River, which has seven employees total, operates a 15-barrel brewhouse and produced 2,000 bbls in 2015. The plan is to increase production by 25 percent this year as ARBC continues to find new inroads for distribution.

Found in most major outlets locally, Mathis and Armstrong have networked and made connections with many places that Mathis called “difficult to get into.”

“We are fortunate and blessed to be able to have those connections and those kinds of friends,” he said.

Coloma Brown isn’t the only award-winning beer for American River. “Rockhound” Barleywine, “River Bend” Hefeweizen and “Sunrise” IPA have also been winners in regional and state contests for the brewery.

“It’s all a testament to the team,” Mathis said. “It’s all about the passion of beer and we are all in the same direction when it comes to beer.”

Armstrong said he and Mathis come from traditional brewing backgrounds, but they aren’t traditionalists. American River’s 12 taps have anything from a session IPA to a barrel-aged Habanero beer on tap right now.

“We aren’t big hop heads,” he said. “We appreciated big, hoppy beers, but we are more about balance.”

Armstrong noted that when it came to packaging, American River has been using bombers mostly, but that will change this year as it has contracted with a mobile canner and will be adding those to its portfolio.

Along with American River getting the honor was Petaluma Hills Brewing in Petaluma; Prohibition Brewing in Vista; Three Weavers Brewing in Inglewood; and Hangar 24 in Redlands. Those five were out of 85 small businesses awarded from nearly three million that operate in California.

“With millions of small businesses in operation across the state, it is absolutely amazing to see five craft breweries recognized for their contributions to the economic engine in California,” said Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, in a release. “This is another powerful reminder of how popular and important the craft brewing industry has become to our state.”

Craft brewers in California have created more than 44,000 jobs and contributed $6.5 billion to the state’s economy according to the CCBA.

Since 2013, Petaluma Hills has been a leader in economic development for Sonoma County. Petaluma has one of the county’s lowest unemployment rates and the second highest median household income. Petaluma Hills actively gives back to the community participating in the local Chamber of Commerce and supporting several youth, arts, Veterans and health organizations.

“Small businesses are a vital part of our local economy,” said Petaluma Hills owner JJ Jay.  “For the last four years, Petaluma Hills has been part of our wonderful craft brewing community where beer making is both an art and an economic driver.”

Ron and Kathy Adams founded Prohibition Brewing in 2011. Ron Adams serves as a board member on the Vista Chamber, actively supporting the city and its schools and businesses. He stressed locality talking about the honor, noting that all of the brewpub’s employees live in the Vista area.

“We would not be here today if it were not for our customers, so we want to especially thank them for giving us their trust to serve them,” Ron Adams said. “We are proud of the fact that we have a local workforce.”

Founded in 2013 by Lynne Weaver, Three Weavers Brewing is Inglewood’s first brewery. The brewery has a strong commitment to social responsibility through its products, its employees, and community involvement. With award-winning brewmaster, Alexandra Nowell, at the helm, the brewery is turning out a variety of  beers that have put Inglewood on the map as a craft beer destination.

Ben Cook founded Hangar 24 in 2008. Today, the brewery employs more than 140 people and is an active supporter of charitable causes in the Inland Empire. In response to the December 2, 2015 attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Hangar 24 organized the #BeerForSB campaign, which raised more than $125,000 for victims’ families.
“I love being able to practice my passion for craft brewing in Redlands, and the community has been an incredible supporter from day one,” Cook said. “Our core values drive Hangar 24, and we look forward to continuing to share our success with our friends and community.”

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