Keith Huizinga, owner of Kinslahger Brewing, walks through the back and shows the beer-making process on Monday, April 5, 2021, in the brewery at Kinslahger Brewing Company on Roosevelt Road in Oak Park, Ill. ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a trio of Oak Park breweries are releasing, Things We Don’t Say IPA, a collaborative beer crafted to aid in smashing the stigma around mental health struggles. Kinslahger Brewing Company, One Lake Brewing and Oak Park Brewing Company are releasing the beer on May 1 and 100% of profits will go to Hope for the Day, a Chicago based non-profit focused on suicide prevention.

“We are all fans of each other’s beer,” said Keith Huizinga, co-owner of Kinslahger, 6806 Roosevelt Rd. “We are always looking for reasons to come together and mental health awareness is a good reason.”

The initiative is designed to empower craft breweries to bring attention to people suffering in silence with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. The program drives home the importance of utilizing available support resources by including suicide prevention and crisis hotline numbers directly on the customizable can design created specifically for participating breweries.

The concept has grown to include hundreds of craft breweries across the globe. Huizinga led the charge of brewing Oak Park’s Things We Don’t Say IPA because of his personal passion for raising funds for mental health philanthropies. Kinslahger has a long history of supporting mental health awareness and backing organizations dedicated to bringing these struggles out into the open. Historically, all tips left at Kinslahger have been donated to the American Federation for Suicide Prevention. Supporting Hope for the Day is a natural next step for the Roosevelt Road brewing company.

“My daughter struggles with anxiety and I lost a dear friend to suicide,” said Huizinga. “After seeing mental health issues in my own home, I have become more aware of people who are effected but don’t talk about it.”

Though an IPA recipe was provided to participating breweries, the Oak Park brewers gathered for a socially distanced brainstorming session to tweak the recipe to their personal tastes. They cooked up a recipe and gathered in early April to brew the beer at Kinslahger.

“This is the first time we’ve done a full-blown collaboration,” said Jim Cozzens, co-owner of Oak Park Brewing Company, 155 S. Oak Park Ave. “Kinslahger is a production brewery. Brewing there means we can purchase the beer to sell at our brew pubs. Doing it that way means will have the beer in three locations and bring more attention to this very important issue.”

The brewers opted to make use of the suggested ingredients from Malteurop Malting Co. and Hollingbery and Son Hop Co. but changed the ratios in the recipe to reflect the desired flavor profile all three breweries hoped to achieve in the final product. The resulting India Pale Ale (6% abv) leans toward a “juicy IPA” according to Huizinga and boasts a fruit forward flavor and low bitterness coaxed from thoughtful usage of hops. Cozzens expects the beer to deliver strong citrus notes.

Kristin Alfonsi, co-owner of One Lake Brewing, 1 Lake St., says her brew pub was eager to jump in on the collaborative brewing project. In the past year, One Lake’s kitchen staff have been directly impacted by industry colleagues dying by suicide. In addition to acknowledging the mental health struggles prevalent in the restaurant industry, Alfonsi also recognized, as mother, that children have been struggling in various ways throughout the past year.

“The craft brewing world is a small network and we’ve really leaned on each other to get through the pandemic,” said Alfonsi. “This year has been the pinnacle of hardship for so many people and many of us have felt ill-equipped to deal with it. This is a great cause to support especially considering everything we’ve been through in the past year.”

Things We Don’t Say IPA will be available on draft and in four packs of 16-ounce cans at Kinslahger, Oak Park Brewing and One Lake beginning on May 1.

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