Pro bono work is usually associated with fancy law firms rather than start-up craft breweries.

By Emily Kaiser Thelin
Updated May 23, 2017

Pro bono work is usually associated with fancy law firms rather than start-up craft breweries. After all, it costs money to pay your employees to volunteer pro bono publico—for the public good. But when Josh Hare founded Hops & Grain Brewery in Austin in 2010, he pledged to give back. “We wanted to align ourselves with this idea of craft beer sustainability,” he said. “For us that has three facets: the environment, the industry and our community.”

Besides helping the environment by packaging all of his beers in recyclable aluminum cans, Hare started giving back by pledging 1 percent of his gross sales to the environmental organization One Percent for the Planet. Next, he pledged to give an additional 3 percent to his community (the brewery is located in East Austin, where Hare and his wife and most of their nine employees live). He also decided to pay all of his employees to devote 1 percent of their brewery hours to working pro bono at one of the local nonprofits they support. He saw it partly as a way to keep work fun. “We work really hard, so I try to provide a workplace environment that’s rewarding, so it’s not viewed so much as work,” Hare says.

Urban Roots Austin is one of the major recipients; the 3.5-acre farm in East Austin offers paid internships to teenagers to study sustainable agriculture and learn healthy eating habits. Starting this spring Hops & Grain’s employees will spend a few hours every week helping out on the farm.

The largesse doesn’t end there. Passionate about cycling and fuel conservation, Hare pays $4 a day to employees who ride bikes to work, take public transportation or drive fuel-efficient vehicles. The brewery also supports the Hill Country Ride for AIDS and the Texas Bicycle Coalition.

An enthusiastic dog owner, Hare uses his brewery’s spent grains to make Brew Biscuits Dog Treats at a commercial kitchen down the street. Demand has grown so quickly, he’s now looking for a bigger kitchen, and more employees to staff it.