Beer Wars brings the pain, for a good cause

It’s a new year and many in the B.C. craft beer industry are preparing to hit the gym and work off those hard-earned beer bellies. However, this has (almost) nothing to do with keeping a new year’s resolution.

Next week, training begins for the third annual Beer Wars charity boxing event. Close to a hundred people from the craft beer industry are handing themselves over to coach Dave Schuck at Eastside Boxing Club, who will be whipping them into shape in preparation for the main event at the Croatian Cultural Centre, April 8.

Not all will make it to the big day. Some will train for months only to be sidelined by injury (like I was, last year). Many more will simply bail, because, it’s like hard, or whatever (like I did, last year).

The whole point to Beer Wars is to raise money to help fund Eastside’s afterschool programs. The gym offers a safe space for more than 130 kids, aged 11-19, five days a week, providing them with nutritious food, clothing, tutors and access to the gym, all for free.

“Most of these kids don’t have a lot,” says Schuck. “Sometimes the only healthy meal they’ll get that day might be here at the gym.”

Kelli Sturkenboom, Faculty Brewing’s sales and supply chain manager, is one of this year’s victims participants, making a return appearance after fighting in last year’s event. Despite never having boxed before, Sturkenboom managed to survive Coach Dave’s sadistic four-month training regimen and win her fight in front of hundreds of screaming fans, friends and family.

“It was a really big accomplishment for me, to start this sport and to actually succeed,” she says. “I almost cried. It felt like I was in a dream!”

Sturkenboom decided to sign up last year because she was looking to “push myself out of my comfort zone.” As it turns out, getting punched in the face is really good way to do that!

“Yeah, the first time we sparred, that was one of the craziest days ever,” she says. “My adrenaline started going, I could feel my eyes welling up. I was really emotional afterwards.”

She even considered dropping out. But after training at Eastside and seeing the kids come to the gym for the afterschool program, she felt it was important to continue, for their sake.

“It’s such a good cause, and I felt it was really important to support the kids and support Eastside.”

Beer Wars is open to anyone working in the craft beer industry, or even tangentially associated with it, and experience is definitely not necessary. Registration is still open at BCBeerWars.com, or better yet, come down to the gym this Saturday, Jan. 6, at 2pm for orientation. There’s a full slate of boxing matches planned, and the craft beer will definitely be flowing. The event is open to the public and free to attend, so come by even if you just want to drink beer and watch some totally legit boxers demonstrate how it’s actually done.

For the newbies signing on for the first time, Sturkenboom has some advice. Firstly, prepare to be really, really sore.

“I didn’t realize how intense it would be,” she says. “It was a totally different experience then what I had been used to. It taught me a lot of discipline and I think I’m a more confident person now.

“Also, you are probably going to cry.”

• Beer Wars 2018 Orientation takes place this Saturday, Jan. 6, at 2pm at Eastside Boxing Club, 238 Keefer St., Vancouver. The main event takes place April 8 at the Croatian Cultural Centre. More info at BCBeerWars.com.