This week saw the announcement of something pretty unusual for the greater Columbia area. Yes, a new brewery is in the works for the Midlands. However, this will be a brewery unlike any other in South Carolina. Ex Gratia Brewing Co. has set out to be the first and only nonprofit brewery in the state.

Ex Gratia (Latin for “from grace”) founder and executive director Seth Gibson is a Lutheran pastor. In a Facebook post announcing the project, he said he finds that “many times charities can't do what they are good at because of lack of funding or people.” So he's working with local community leaders — and has approached church leadership — to create a brewery whose total net profits will go to local and national charities [Note: online copy updated].

The brewery is in the very early stages — still filing with South Carolina and waiting for its 501(c)3 status from the IRS to be approved — but has launched its website at exgratiabrewing.org and a Facebook page, and assembled a board of directors.

Ex Gratia is searching for corporate sponsors, and will eventually be accepting donations to hopefully achieve a debt-free start-up, while still donating 10 percent of fundraising efforts to local South Carolina organizations.

Bringing people together is what the brewery is all about, Gibson says.

“For me, beer is a holy thing; it is one of the few things in our world — our divided world — that can actually draw people together,” he says. “A beer is something that can bring a millionaire and a construction worker together. Craft beer, quality beer, has the ability to create community.”

Gibson hopes to plant a church community in the brewery as well.

“A brewery has the potential to create a wholesome community for people from any walk of life … to be told they have a place, there is a seat for them!”

Gibson most recently served as pastor at the LGBT-affirming Gethsemane Lutheran Church, and says of the new brewery/church, “We will be welcoming and affirming for all.”

The brewery will rely on a mix of paid and volunteer staff.

“I also have a hope that down the road we are able to hire folks most at risk, homeless, etc., and help them get trained and a leg up,” Gibson says. “Our goal is to provide a livable wage and full benefits for any and all staff.”

Asked when we can expect this good beer for good causes, Gibson said, “We have our fingers crossed we will be able to open late 2018 [or] early 2019.”

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