Hendersonville brewery offers sanctuary to pets

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By J. Eric Eckard

Thursday, June 7, 2018

This story could start in October when Lisa Marie McDonald and Joe Dinan started a nonprofit to help animals in Western North Carolina.

Or it could start in August 2015 when the couple opened Sanctuary Brewing Co. in Hendersonville.

But let’s go back a little further — when in 2012, McDonald and Dinan moved from the city streets of Chicago to a three-acre farm in North Carolina.

“We moved so we could buy a house and rescue animals,” McDonald said. “(Dinan) was dabbling in brewing beer, so he got a job in a local brewery.

“We were fostering animals and brewing beer. Then we thought we could save more animals and brew more beer by combining the two.”

But opening a brewery and getting a nonprofit animal rescue up and running doesn’t happen overnight. All along, the two were fostering animals, sometimes 50-60 kittens a year after a particularly fertile feral kitten season.

“Over the years, Joe and I have probably fostered about 250 animals — dogs, cats, roosters, goats,” McDonald said. “The brewery opened in 2015, and we were rescuing animals at the same time.”

But like most new businesses, operating in the black was a while away. And there were mouths to feed.

“The animals always ate before we did,” McDonald said. “And we were paying for all the animals’ care out of pocket.

“When we started the non-profit, it was a game-changer. We didn’t have to live day to day financially.”

But the story of McDonald and Dinan didn’t stop with brewing beer and helping animals.

“The brewery turned into a kind of community center,” McDonald said. “We thought we could do good for all beings, not just animals.”

So about a month after the brewery opened, they bought a bunch of coats, scarves and gloves at a local thrift store and hung the garments on a wire outside the building. Free to anyone who needs something, cold weather gear awaits anyone in need on what they call the “Kindness Wall.” The wall also is the site where people can drop off items, as well.

But there’s more. On Easter 2016, the couple decided to host a lunch for anyone in the community who wanted a hot meal. McDonald said the Easter lunch was such a success, they decided to host meals every week.

From hot dog bars to potato soup and cornbread to chili cheese fries and salads, the couple feeds anywhere from 15 to 40 people a week. And to avoid any stigma, McDonald said they never use the word “homeless” when talking about the free meals or Kindness Wall.

While McDonald is serving up the food, Brewmaster Dinan is making a slew of craft beers. With 10 years of brewing experience, Dinan got his start at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville before taking brew classes at Blue Ridge Community College.

Sanctuary Brewing uses a 3½ gallon brewing system and serves Belgian farmhouse ales, American stouts and West Coast IPAs.

“But we’re not afraid to try anything,” McDonald said.

At present, Sanctuary has a Kolsch, cream ale, saison and a couple of sour brews on its menu. There’s also a wide range of food items, as well as Saturday yoga with pets and weekly animal adoption events.

Meanwhile, down at the farm in nearby Flat Rock, a family of furry and feathery creatures holds court.

“We’re considered a micro-sanctuary,” McDonald said. “We like to keep it at about 20 animals.”

At present, five cats, four dogs, four chickens, two turkeys, two goats and a pig roam a fenced-in acre of farmland. But McDonald said they’re still looking for help in fencing the rest of the three-acre property.

As far as the animals go, it’s one big, happy family.

“The chickens love the pig, and the pig loves the chicken,” McDonald said. “The chicken will mimic what the other animals do.

“Everyone gets along with everyone.”