Monday, May 22, 2023

Iowa family builds farm-based craft brewery to help deliver a cure for blindness

INWOOD, Iowa, May 4, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- In 2020 a family in northwest Iowa began making their own craft beer as a hobby during the pandemic. Those efforts took a serious turn when the owners of the Blind Butcher Brewing Company found a cause worth fighting for – a mission to cure blindness.

Since opening to the public in 2021, they have already brought awareness to thousands of people and have raised more than $60,000 in donations towards their non-profit, BREWS for BLiNDNESS to support the University of Iowa Institute for Vision Research (IVR).

In 2009, Iowan Rob Hage was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare genetic eye disease. For many years, he has been a patient of Dr. Edwin Stone who also serves as the Director of the IVR. He and his family were overjoyed to learn of the breakthroughs during an online seminar held by Dr. Stone in December, 2020, when it was shared that development of a cure was within reach. Furthermore, the delivery of that cure would be done affordably as the IVR chose to develop treatments largely through philanthropic funding, rather than turning to big pharma for delivery. Treatments include using the patient's own stem cells to grow new photoreceptors to be transplanted back to the patient's damaged retina.  

A serendipitous conversation then took place between Rob Hage and the IVR team, and the pathway to the first BREWS for BLiNDNESS began. Two years of devoted preparation are soon to culminate with the first formal "pilot batch" brewing at Backpocket Brewing Co. in Coralville, IA – scheduled for public release on May 26, 2023. This IPA will retail throughout Iowa and in their taproom with the proceeds benefiting BREWS for BLiNDNESS to support the IVR. The first-annual, national campaign will then begin in the Fall of 2023 among other brewers in Iowa and beyond who wish to join.

Hage says, "This journey has been a labor of love for us since day one in deciding to follow through with the vision of building this non-profit organization. The craft brewing industry is simply an incredible group of people who are passionate about their craft and the welfare of the people it brings together on a daily basis. We are so proud to be part of this group, and we look forward to many years of helping bring treatment awareness and delivery for this disease and the real hope in delivering a cure through the efforts of craft brewers like ourselves and the IVR."

"We are very excited to have the Hage family's BREWS for BLiNDNESS partnership in our efforts and for the creative path they have taken to bring us closer to these treatments," says Dr. Stone.

"We decided to partner with this great cause after meeting with Rob and his wife in our taproom a couple of years ago," says Aaron Vargas, managing partner for Backpocket Brewing Co. "In the brewing community, we are very close and when we have the opportunity to help, we will. Our collaboration with BREWS for BLiNDNESS is one way that we can help by doing something we know how to do and working with our partners at Briess Malts and Hollingbery Hop Farms to produce a beer that not only brings awareness to the cause but raises money as well. Our suppliers have been a great resource and have donated some of the raw materials for this brew, which allows for some money to be raised for this cause."

To join this worldwide effort to share awareness and delivery of an affordable cure, please contact: online at

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