Two new items being offered at Goshen and Middlebury restaurants have a longer story that led to their arrival.

They’re both worth tasting. Both come out of efforts to help a cause. And the stories are worth telling, too.

● A beer on tap at Goshen Brewing Co. raised nearly $10,000 as people gathered to celebrate raising the first pint of School Bell Stout.

● A burger that will be offered starting Tuesday at 41 Degrees North arrives after winning a contest as part of the BBQ & Brews fundraiser for the Middlebury clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Club of Elkhart County.

Former Middlebury resident Keith Grubaugh had been suggesting for a while that GBCo brew a beer to honor the late MJ Sharp, who was killed in 2017 while doing peacemaking work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sharp’s friend and Bethany Christian Schools classmate Justin Ramer is a manager at the brewpub and owner Jesse Sensenig is friends with Sharp’s sister Erin.

The conversation resulted in GBCo brewing a blonde stout, made with oats, local maple syrup and Congolese coffee roasted by The Electric Brew. Its name evokes a prank he and friends engineered in 2000-01 during their Bethany senior year to short-circuit the bell system, creating havoc at the school. It ended up being a sweet, hefty brew of 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.

Ramer had the idea of auctioning off the first pint to raise funds for a scholarship fund at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center For Justice and Peacebuilding. That fund has about $200,000 as an endowment and is being given to Congolese students attending the center at Sharp’s alma mater in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Then, Ramer had the idea of inviting classmates to contribute and thought they might get several hundred dollars.

“When we reached out contacting people, it really blew up,” said Ramer, who asked me to be the auctioneer as someone who has been working on Sharp’s biography.

Anna Mast, owner of Anna’s Bread, also made a bread with the beer. Some loaves were sold at the bakery and two loaves were part of the pint auction, selling for $200 each. MJ’s father John, who now lives in Hesston, Kansas, got the second loaf. He was in Goshen to speak about MJ at College Mennonite Church, and MJ’s mother Michele came to town for the GBCo event.

The bidding for the pint rose and rose until it sold for $5,000 to the Class of 2001. Ramer explained the generosity of the class and said it should be sold again. Another group of Sharp friends purchased it for $1,800 and said it should be sold again. John Sharp got it for $600 and was handed a glass by Ramer to taste. Others could then purchase the beer and 15 percent of each sale will also go to the scholarship fund. It was amazing to be there gathered with people remembering this special guy. That night and since, EMU’s fund grew because of School Bell Stout.

“It fit with the mission of the brewery and being connected to the community,” said Sensenig. “We’re kind of that space where the community can come together and break down some barriers.”

The beer will be available another week or two until it runs out.

Jim Reschly, vice president of Reschcor, got the idea for a caramel apple burger as he mused about what to bring to this year’s BBQ & Brews competition to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club. When he smokes and grills food at home, he uses applewood and thought could be a creative entry in the contest that featured 17 corporate teams making and serving burgers to judges and the public.

“We pulled off the W, which is pretty cool,” he said.

The beef burger is infused with applewood smoke and topped with aged Swiss cheese, a slab of Granny Smith apple and mixture of caramel, vanilla, butter and peanuts. I really liked the mix of savory and sweet, soft and crunchy, as one of the final round judges. It bested the other competitors in two rounds of judging to earn a spot at 41 Degrees North.

Restaurant owner Austin Slabach is preparing the burger to be offered as a special at the restaurant through the end of October. He’s still working on pricing and final details.

Reschly said he and other grilling team members from the plastics extrusion company will head to the restaurant to order their winning burger.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

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