Indiana facility takes cougar to fundraiser at brewery

Cougar helps celebrate release of beer 
 
Garrett Stack – IDS – Date: 10/19/2008
 
Despite some criticism last year, Upland Brewery still managed to bring in a mountain lion to help celebrate the release of its annual fall beer Saturday.
 
The Exotic Feline Rescue Center, which co-sponsored the event, brought the cougar to help celebrate the release party. The EFRC received $1 for every pint of Upland Brewery’s annually released Schwarz beer that was sold.
 
Last year, the panther the center provided appeared agitated in its cage. U.S. News and World Report made mention of an Indiana Daily Student article covering the event.
 
“The cat was really freaked out last year,” said Erin McFadden, a waitress who has been working at Upland for over four years.
 
The center, which is located in Center Point, less than an hour from Bloomington, is home to about 200 exotic cats, including tigers, lions, panthers and cheetahs.
 
“We got some bad press last year after the IDS wrote a story about the Upland party,” said EFRC Director Joe Taft. “We don’t take the cats out very often. We usually prefer to leave them at home, but Upland is a special case.”
 
This year, the center brought a different cat they believed would be more comfortable in a different, and crowded, environment.
 
“They brought in a younger cat this year they thought would be more playful,” said Upland waitress Amber Lemon. “The cat was also placed differently; they put the cage further out of the way of normal foot traffic.”
 
The cougar was there for three hours, along with EFRC representatives, to help keep the feline calm and comfortable.
 
“This year the cat was good; he spent most of the time napping in the shade,” McFadden said.
 
After the cougar’s departure, local bands started playing and continued late into the night as Upland had its most successful day ever.
 
“These were the biggest sales numbers we have ever had,” Lemon said. “I brought in over $2,000 personally in sales.”
 
A $5 suggested donations box was placed at the entrance. All the proceeds would go to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. The box alone contained more than $1,000, and the $1 from each Schwarz pint sold has yet to be calculated.
 
Upland also donates beer to various events for the center, and Upland staff members have often volunteered there over the years. This is the second year in a row the center provided an exotic feline to accompany the release of Upland’s fall beer.
 
The EFRC, which was founded in 1991, had only three cats at the time. Since then, it has grown to be a nationally recognized leader in exotic feline care and rehabilitation.
 
Most of the cats are acquired from homes where they have been abused or neglected. The center then provides a lifelong home for the felines complete with large outdoor environments as well as dental and medical care.
 
Last year the event raised close to $1,000 in total for the center, and the center should receive much more than that this year after all of the sales are totaled.
 
“(Running the EFRC) is an extremely expensive operation, and we need the revenue,” Taft said.
 
The Schwarz, which is a black lager, is a seasonal beer that Upland Brewery releases every October during the Schwarztag party. The word Schwarztag means “black day” in German.
 
“The main logo on the beer represents a mythical black panther that allegedly roams the countryside in Monroe County,” said Head Brewer Caleb Staton. “We named the beer in honor of the legend.”
 
The Upland Brewery is involved in several philanthropies that benefit local active non-profit organizations.
 
“I think (donating to non-profit organizations) goes hand in hand with being a Bloomingtonian,” Staton said. “We’re just trying to give back to the community.”
 
 
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org
 
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