How brewing beer in Greater Philadelphia is helping war relief efforts in Ukraine

While a Lviv brewery makes Molotov cocktails, it's leaning on others to keep the beer taps running
Wilmington Brew Works CEO and head brewer Craig Wensell
Wilmington Brew Works is one of several breweries producing Pravda beers to raise money for the Ukrainian war effort. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Beermakers around the world, including a few in the Philadelphia area, are making Ukrainian beers and selling them locally to raise money for the Ukrainian army and relief efforts.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Pravda Brewery, in the western part of the country, had to suspend beer production to make a different concoction for the war effort — Molotov cocktails. A Molotov cocktail is an improvised bomb made by filling a glass bottle with a flammable substance, setting it alight and throwing it.

With the city of Lviv bracing for a fight, brewing is not a priority and alcohol is forbidden. So Pravda gave away recipes for five of their award-winning beers so that brewers around the world could make and sell it in solidarity.

“As Lviv prepares for war, brewing is seen as an act of hope,” Pravda co-owner Yuri Zastavny wrote on Facebook. “It will take several weeks for the beer to be ready, but we hope that when it’s finished, we will be drinking this beer in a country that has won the war.”

The war is still causing outrage around the world, but the hope of brewers around the world is beginning to bear fruit. Recently Zastavny reported to the beermakers on a three-hour Zoom call that proceeds from their sales had already gone to Ukrainians wounded in the war.

Wilmington Brew Works, Wilmington, Del.

Wilmington Brew Works, in Delaware, one of several Brew For Ukraine beermakers, is making Pravda’s Ukrainian imperial stout — "because we are removing the Russian imperial stout," CEO and head brewer Craig Wensell said. “We are no longer tipping a hat to that country."


Wensell took a few minutes away from the boil — incorporating the hops and sugar into the brew and pasteurizing the mixture — to speak to KYW Newsradio Wednesday morning.

"I've been loving this smell all morning long," he said. "As soon as I got things mashed in, it was just a lovely combination of coffee and chocolate.”

The beer he is brewing is Pravda’s Vid Sianu do Donu (From San to Don) stout.

San to Don Stout label
The label for Pravda Brewery's Vid Sianu do Donu (San to Don Stout), which Wilmington Brew Works is making and selling in support of the Ukrainian war effort. Photo credit Pravda Brewery

“So, the San and Don are two different rivers that run through the Ukraine,” he said, explaining the name. “One is east, one is west. I thought it was really appropriate, since us in the west are helping our brothers in the east.”

Wensell is a U.S. Army veteran and fought in Afghanistan, so he says he knows what it’s like to fight an uphill battle.

“I have never brewed this beer before. It's a new one to us, which means the timeline is a little touch and go, but as soon as it’s ready, I'm going to get it out.”

Wilmington Brew Works is one of several breweries producing Pravda beers to raise money for the Ukrainian war effort.
Wilmington Brew Works CEO and head brewer Craig Wensell checks the boil on their version of Pravda's San to Don Stout. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

The beer should be available at the brewery in cans and draft by the first week of April. Wensell plans on raising at least $1,000 for Brew for Ukraine.

A note to stout fans: Delaware Law prohibits the shipping of alcohol, so all beers must be picked up at the WBW taproom, at 3129 Miller Road, in Wilmington — which is, incidentally, just a quarter-mile down the road from St. Nikolas Ukrainian Catholic church, a center of Wilmington’s large Ukrainian community.

2SP Brewing Company, Aston, Pa.

One Delaware County brewery with a different philosophy about their Russian stout is 2SP Brewing Company, 120 Concord Road, Aston, Pa.

Mike Contreras, director of sales and marketing, says the brewery's customers understand the name is not an endorsement of Putin and Russian aggression but a nod to the style of beer.

"You know, people are saying, 'Oh, are you going to change the name to Ukrainian? Or like, the Zelenskyy?'" Contreras said.

The short answer is no.

"By changing name of the Russian, we're kind of saying just because of where you're from, we're assuming all the worst things about you. And that's not what we're about."

Contreras says, in this case, the Russian stands with Ukraine.

"We decided to donate proceeds of the Russian to the International Rescue Committee. They're based out in Poland. They're helping with refugees — prime, basic necessities like food and medical supplies."

Stickman Brews, Royersford, Pa.

Another brewery in the region making its version of a Pravda beer is Stickman Brews, 326 North Lewis Road, in Royersford, Pennsylvania.

"We are brewing one of their recipes for a Belgian witbier, called Frau Ribbentrop, which will be ready and available next week," said Ethan Buckman, co-owner and head brewer. "And we also brewed a cream ale of our own that we named Aundzere Landsman, which will also be available next week."

He said all the proceeds from the two beers will flow directly to Brew for Ukraine.

Love City Brewing, Philadelphia

And, while Love City Brewing in Philadelphia, 1023 Hamilton St., is not participating in Brew For Ukraine, it is holding its own fundraising event on Sunday, March 20, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., to benefit humanitarian services organization Razom for Ukraine.

"It was actually recommended to us by the Ukrainian League of Philadelphia, so we felt pretty confident in that choice. So we are happy to do what we can," said co-owner Melissa Walter.

She says there will be a bake sale, a raffle and drinks for sale, including a specialty cocktail.

Relief organizations mentioned in this story:

Brew For Ukraine

International Rescue Committee

Razom for Ukraine

Featured Image Photo Credit: John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio