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Brewer gives away buck 'o' the Irish

Take a pull off a bottle or pint of Finnegan's Irish Amber before year's end and think of the youth of Fargo-Moorhead. That's who you're drinking for.

Take a pull off a bottle or pint of Finnegan's Irish Amber before year's end and think of the youth of Fargo-Moorhead. That's who you're drinking for.

In a campaign called "Drink Like You Care," the Twin Cities brewer is donating proceeds to certain non-profits where the beer is sold. In the Red River Valley, that means Students Today Leaders Forever stands to benefit from the brew's consumption.

Students Today may be best known for packing high school and college kids onto busses for the Pay it Forward program. For that, students travelled to other areas to help, and hopefully return home inspired to make their own community better.

More recently, the group, particularly students from Fargo high schools, was involved in the Fill the Dome food drive.

STLF co-founder Greg Tehven doesn't see any conflict in a beer maker contributing to a program meant to help younger people.

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"We're not promoting drinking to the students," the 24-year-old said. "There's no brand recognition with this. It's just a philanthropic gesture by a company."

The funds donated to STLF will go toward paying the way for college students on a Pay it Forward trip.

The donation, $1 from every case and $6 from every keg, will come from the Finnegan's Community Fund, a nonprofit set up to distribute the beer maker's earnings after costs.

Finnegan's founder, Jacquie Berglund, said the organization is a social entrepreneurial company, working to make a positive difference in the 17 regions where it's distributed. Their biggest targets are fighting poverty and helping at-risk kids.

She notes that some question the idea of a beer maker turning profits into donations to fight poverty.

"For some people it's a paradox, but I think it's highly creative and we're the only beer company in the world that donated our products back like this," She said. "We've given back over $118,000 to fight poverty, so I think the system works."

Perhaps this spirit prompted cheeky slogans like "Drink yourself conscious" and "With lesser beers, only bladders give back."

In 2007, the Drink Like You Care campaign alone raised $10,991. Twice a year the Finnegan's Community Fund also doles out up to $2,000 grants to applicable nonprofits in its distribution area.Berglund (Swedish on her father's side, but Irish on her mother's) wants to introduce other products that would also aid nonprofits. It sounds like she's brewing up a Minnesota Newman's Own, the food line developed by the late actor, Paul Newman, which donated profits to educational and charitable organizations.

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Berglund's brew has only recently made its way this far west. Still, it's catching on, said Tom Sorenson, manager of the Moorhead Cash Wise Liquor. He said people are picking it up for the taste and not really commenting on the Finnegan's charity mission.

Count Tehven as a fan. While he stresses that he's not promoting the beer to his students, he has been buying rounds for his friends, which, to paraphrase another of Finnegan's slogan, makes him at least 12 ounces Irish.

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533 or jlamb@forumcomm.com

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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