Firefighter charity brewer on the grow

The Hook & Ladder Brewing Co., which says its beer "benefits more than your belly," was founded by firefighter Rich Fleischer and his brother Matt Fleischer.

Their commitment: Through its give-back programs, "A Penny in Every Pint" and "A Quarter in Every Case," Hook & Ladder donates a portion of every sale to injured firefighters and burn victims in each community in which the beer is sold.

The company was founded in 1999, ceased West Coast operations then re-started in Maryland in 2005.

So far, Hook & Ladder, headquartered in Silver Spring, MD, has donated more than $60,000 to burn centers throughout the country. Primary areas funded include new equipment for burn units, clinical research studies for burn treatments, educational opportunities to improve burn care, and direct support of burned firefighters and their families.

The beer initially was distributed by just one wholesale partner, in the Washington, DC, area. It now is distributed by 120 dealers in 26 states. According to the Brewers Association, it experienced 688% growth in 2007, the biggest percentage increase among craft brewers providing beers solely through a distribution network.

Hook & Ladder makes Golden Ale, a Great American Beer Festival gold medalist; Hook & Ladder Lighter, a lowered-calorie ale, and Backdraft Brown, champion of the 2008 Washington Post Beer Madness competition. In addition, it makes a line of seasonal brews.

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