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Pandemics and beer: How a Port Coquitlam craft brewery is helping to feed hungry kids

In partnership with PoCo firefighters’ charitable society, Northpaw Brew Co. sells lager to help pay for food vouchers

A cold glass of lager isn’t going to solve the world’s pandemic problems, but it could alleviate some stress and worry for families in Port Coquitlam.

As families across the Tri-Cities struggle with the financial fallout of COVID-19, a Port Coquitlam craft brewery and Port Coquitlam Firefighters are collaborating on a beer fundraiser.

Northpaw Brew Co. is selling its newest batch of Ring the Alarm Lager in cans, with $1 from every four-pack putting food on the shelves of families whose children attend three Port Coquitlam elementary schools.

The Port Coquitlam Professional Firefighters Charitable Society is distributing $15,000 in food vouchers to families of students attending Birchland, James Park and Central elementary schools with funds it has raised with its partnership with Northpaw as well as other fundraising endeavours.

Birchland elementary school principal Elspeth Anjo
Birchland elementary school principal Elspeth Anjos with food vouchers to be distributed to families. - Submitted

So far nearly 300 families have received $50 food vouchers so they can buy food at Port Coquitlam Save-On Foods stores, according to society president Thomas Loss.

“These vouchers are something that are needed at this time,” said Loss, whose organization had been paying for school breakfast programs but switched to vouchers when the pandemic hit and schools were closed.

He can’t say enough about Northpaw Brew Co. that stepped in to help with the fundraising initiative.

“We’re so fortunate to work with such a great community company, they are looking to support us in many ways, we are thankful for all the work they’ve done to get our charitable society out there and to support us financially,” said Loss.

Northpaw’s contribution comes as the company has had to switch gears to cope with an eight-week shutdown and an uncertain future.


Owner Courtney Brown told the Tri-City News that Ring the Alarm Lager was first launched last spring, with $1 from every pint going to the firefighter charity. The decision was made to make it a year-round beer because it was so popular.

But when the pandemic hit, and draft beer couldn’t be sold in the Port Coquitlam establishment, Northpaw had to can the batch, a decision that came with significant financial considerations.

“We realized we are going into the hole a little bit to make this happen,” said Brown.

With donated labour from Mile 37 Craft Canning Company, the beer was canned and is now being sold as off-sales at Northpaw.

“It helped reduce the cost of taking this beer and putting it in cans — we could still provide proceeds and not lose our shirts,” said the owner.

But Northpaw isn’t the only local brewery that is anxiously awaiting recommendations during Phase 2 of the province’s re-opening plan, set to begin May 19.

Port Coquitlam has a robust craft brewery industry, with Tinhouse Brewery, Taylight, and newcomer Patina Brewing Company coming on stream in recent years. 

But the provincial health orders have required brew pubs to find alternative means to get their product out with deliveries and off-sales.

Interior of North Paw Brew Co.
Like all brew pubs, Northpaw Brew Co. in Port Coquitlam is waiting to open up with strict social distancing protocols in place with B.C.'s phase 2 pandemic recovery plan. - Instagram

Now the BC Craft Brewer’s Guild is offering guidelines to members and is recommending cities allow brew pubs to create patios. That will allow them to offset reduced indoor seating capacity with outdoor seating, so they can stay afloat.

Brown hopes he can turn a large parking area in the back into more seating, and will be seeking an endorsement from Port Coquitlam council, which also recently legislated longer hours.

When patrons do return, they’ll face a slightly less casual atmosphere, with servers wearing masks and gloves and customers having to pick up their own flights.

But if all goes well, Northpaw will be able to re-open, along with the Tri-Cities’ other popular brew pubs, and the vibrant social scene will be revived.

In the meantime, Ring the Alarm Lager is available via off-sales, and those interested in contributing to the food voucher program can email the firefighters’ society directly at