Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
— Hippocrates

Sometimes that first sip of beer can be magical. Surrounded by friends, be they old or new, relaxing in an air conditioned room after working on a hot and humid evening, sharing stories and laughs, and then taking that first refreshing sip of a cold, crisp beer. You exhale. For a brief moment, all seems right with the world.

The things is, we all know that all is not right with the world. Earth is full of life, and life is complicated. People need help. Communities need help. The planet needs help. Often it seems our very existence is at irreconcilable odds with these challenges.

Then you remember that beer exists, and all seems right with the world.

Located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region of Minnesota, a small beer company is working to make things better in the world one project, one volunteer, and one beer at a time.


Surly Brewing Company has only been around for a little more than a decade. But in that short time, beyond brewing great beer, they've affected change in their community. As they put it, they "give a damn." They organize events, make donations, and provide volunteers for organizations throughout Minnesota, and beyond.

On an unusually steamy late-May afternoon, that meant gathering people to get dirty and sweaty working with Open Arms of Minnesota. A nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities, they are dedicated to the belief that food is medicine, and they "believe that all people who are ill — no matter their economic status — should have access to appropriate nutrition."

What could be more nutritious and healthful than fresh, organically and locally grown food?

With this in mind, Open Arms of Minnesota operates their Open Farms program. They take vacant lots in the Twin Cities area and convert them into gardens that grow food for their clients while beautifying their community. Empty and ignored plots of land, full of rocks and weeds, are transformed into green oases, teaming with vegetables that help heal people and neighborhoods. The humble carrot acting as a revolutionary agent for positive change. Mint proving it can be both doctor and landscaper.

Covered in sunscreen, bug repellent, and sweat, the group of volunteers grabbed rakes, shovels, and wheelbarrows and we began the process of preparing garden beds for spring planting. Removing the winter blanket of straw from the land, then removing the spring blanket of weeds from the ground, and finally adding a blanket of compost to the tilth, we methodically and enthusiastically made this small corner of St. Paul ready to play its part in making the world a better place.

The time flew by, as it is wont to do when you're surrounded by determined people, charming conversation, and playing in the dirt. The long shadows and fading light betrayed time's attempt to go unnoticed by everyone except Tara. As we were putting tools away and wiping off the straw and dust that was adhered to our faces by perspiration, she stood alone in the field, rake at the ready, awaiting that next load of compost that never came. When she glanced up and saw us all waving her over, Tara realized it was time to wrap things up, and sheepishly walked over to join us.

Still filthy and smelly, we all gathered at a local pub where they quarantined us in a special room of our own. Each of us with a complimentary Surly Beer in hand, we toasted our efforts, we toasted Open Arms, we toasted Surly, and we toasted the day.

For a moment, all seemed right with the world.