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Bringing light: Steel Bender creates Shine On Saison beer to benefit suicide prevention center

Steel Bender’s Shine On Saison is available at Whole Foods Market locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Proceeds benefit the Agora Crisis Center. (Courtesy of Mario Caldwell)

Steel Bender Brewyard is giving the Agora Crisis Center a financial boost with its Shine On Saison.

Six-packs of the limited release will be available while supplies last exclusively at Whole Foods Market locations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Proceeds will benefit the Agora Crisis Center in Albuquerque. The center operates on a small budget, and most of its phone workers are volunteers who have been trained in suicide prevention. Agora has a small staff and about 100 volunteers. The organization does suicide prevention training around the state on how to recognize warning signs and respond to someone who might be at risk for suicide. New Mexico has one of the nation’s highest rates of suicide.

Agora handles about 1,000 calls and 500 chats each month. Agora members not only talk with callers but also help if they are in need of community resources including counseling or assistance from a food bank or homeless shelter. The crisis center, which celebrated 50 years of service last year, can be reached at 505-277-3013.

“We’ve definitely seen more calls that are dealing with, you know, loneliness and anxiety and depression and, you know, all the things that everybody is struggling with right now,” said Molly McCoy Brack, Agora clinical director. “And now that people are kind of coming out of the pandemic, we’re starting to see a little ray of hope as people are getting vaccinated. And I think people are coming out of survival mode and now a lot of people are experiencing anxiety about going back to work or going back to school and going out in public. … Now we’re going to have a whole new host of problems that I think people are going to need support for.”

Steel Bender, Agora and Whole Foods brainstormed on the beer that would benefit the crisis center. A saison-style beer was decided on, as well as the name Shine On Saison. The passion fruit that is featured in the saison has significant meaning.

“I like that the word ‘passion’ is in there, because that’s one of the most special things to me about Agora is the passion of our volunteers and the dedication they have toward helping other people,” McCoy Brack said. “And compassion. I like that association too.”

Steel Bender Brewyard brewer Marita Weil with a six pack of Shine On Saison, which she brewed. (Courtesy of Mario Caldwell)

Shine On Saison was brewed by Steel Bender brewer Marita Weil. The saison is made with New Mexico-grown Pale and Pilsner malts as well as malted and raw wheat. Grungeist and Motueka hops were also used create the saison. Motueka hops are grown in New Zealand and feature a note of lime.

“I thought that the lime and the passion fruit might play well together just to lift the passion fruit up a little bit with a little bit of a lime aroma coming from those hops,” said Steel Bender head brewer Bob Haggerty.

Steel Bender has helped Agora in the past, but this the first time it has produced a beer to benefit the crisis center.

“I think the message of ‘Shine On’ is really going to resonate with people who are really being empathetic and patient and wanting to help out even just one person, because, boy, you just reach out to one person with some act of kindness, and it does propagate,” said Shelby Chant, Steel Bender marketing director and co-owner. “And so I think the enthusiasm that we’ve had in working with both Whole Foods and Agora, it’s just been really contagious. And it’s been one of those really valuable experiences that we just love doing.”

Whole Foods Market was more than happy to support the cause by providing shelf space for Shine On Saison.

“It’s a part of our core value, helping our community and environment and, of course, our core value of helping local,” said Jessica Aspeslet, New Mexico local liaison for Whole Foods Market. “… Bringing awareness to the Agora Crisis Center is very important to us, because we realize that during this time there are a lot of people that are suffering because of this pandemic through isolation, anxiety, you know, even depression. And so this is just our way of helping our community.”




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