“Think local, give local and live local perfectly describes Tommy Keegan,” said Christine Hein, Executive Director of People’s Place, a neighboring food pantry and thrift store in Kingston. Tommy Keegan, founder of Keegan Ales, believes in his Kingston community.
“Tommy stored 1100 turkeys for me last Thanksgiving! His affirmation of our work inspires us to continue moving forward to help those most in need in our Ulster County community. Tommy helps me out with labor and food donations, and he is just a wonderful neighbor,” said Hein. Keegan was named the 2016 Honoree of the Year by People’s Place.
Keegan got into brewing in the early 90’s while studying biochemistry in San Francisco. One Father’s Day he bought his dad a home-brew kit. “I liked the idea so much that I went back the next week and got myself one,” said Keegan. Keegan Ales was founded in early 2003 when he learned about an empty building in Kingston that nobody would buy because there was a defunct brewery stuck inside! “This area of Kingston was dangerous back then, and there were drugs being sold on the block. Today, the community just keeps getting better and better. There are a lot of young couples moving in and refurbishing the old Victorian houses. It’s wonderful to see this positive change,” said Keegan.
Keegan Ales contributes to the community by donating to an average of six charities a month.
“I like to support Hudson Valley environmental causes and donate to people who need a helping hand. My family was philanthropic, so I grew up that way. I guess I was raised right by my parents,” Keegan said.
Some of Keegan’s favorite environmental associations include Riverkeeper, an independent organization whose vision is clean, swimmable waters and a Hudson River teeming with life, and the Rondout Valley Growers Association, a diverse array of over 60 farms whose mission is to strengthen farms and the local community by encouraging innovative farming practices and bringing food security to underserved populations. Keegan supplies the beer for their fundraising events.
Keegan Ales also sponsors the annual Mac n Cheese Bake-off competition whose proceeds support Angel Food East. Angel Food provides 250 hot meals a week to the elderly and chronically ill who are home-bound in the community. “Keegan Ales prepares soup for us every week along with generous donations of leftover food and labor when we need it,” said Lisa Hantes, President.
One of Keegan’s favorite charities is the O Positive Festival (O+) which was launched over a few beers at his brewery by members of the creative and wellness community. The three-day festival pairs musicians and visual artists with doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals who donate their services through a pop-up clinic. Joe Concra, a painter who helped start the festival in Kingston in 2010, describes the exchange of art for health treatment as a barter system. “This goes back to, “Hey, doc, my tooth hurts; here’s a chicken,” said Concra.
Each year Keegan Ales brews a special beer for the festival and all proceeds are donated to
O+. Last year there was an artist’s competition to design the best beer can, and Will Lytle was the winner. Lytle’s winning can design depicted the 1777 burning of the Senate House in Kingston.
Lytle’s prize included a special exhibit of his work at Keegan Ales, and two Wellness Clinic visits during the Festival. All beer sale proceeds from Lytle’s can were given by Keegan to the O+ Festival.
As music lovers poured into Keegan Ales, artists met with doctors and dentists in makeshift clinics. The 2016 O+ Festival provided dental services for 147 artists and musicians and 467 wellness visits with participating doctors, nurses, chiropractors, and physical therapists. About $100,000 worth of music, art and health services were exchanged at the 2016 festival. “It was kind of an amazing thing to sit down with a regular doctor,” said Jason Russo, a singer and guitarist. “Doctors are human, it turns out. They enjoy rock music and art.”
“O+ and Keegan Ales have been supportive of each other, and that has grown into the festival taking over our entire facility for the weekend, turning our brewery into one of the premier O+ venues, and making it a drive-through mural museum as pieces are added every year,” said Keegan. “Bringing all these creative minds together for such a great cause reinforces the belief that with a little hard work and a lot of conviction, we can all work together to do the right thing for ourselves, each other and our community—and have fun doing it.”
The 2017 festival runs from October 6-8. For info and tickets click here.