The bottle label for the Cedar Valley F.O.O.L.S private label bourbon.


CEDAR FALLS — A sampling of an Iowa-made bourbon will raise funds for a children’s burn camp Thursday.

The Cedar Valley F.O.O.L.S. Brotherhood Bourbon Release Sampling & Fundraiser is from 5 to 7 p.m. in the tasting room at Cedar Falls Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits. The liquor store is partnering with the Mississippi River Distilling Co., of LeClaire, and the Cedar Valley F.O.O.L.S (a fraternal order of firefighters) to offer the event.

Samples will be available as well as a few bottles to purchase. There is no cost to attend.

“It’s our second year for the event,” says Brent Smeins, a volunteer firefighter in Dike. “We raise funds for the St. Florian Fire & Burn Foundation to benefit the Children’s Miracle Burn Camp.”

The F.O.O.L.S., or Fraternal Order Of Leatherheads Society, established in 2010, has 44 members — firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians — representing 14 communities in the Cedar Valley. They meet monthly at the Cedar Falls AMVETS and also train together on a monthly basis.

“All of those members then take their training back and share it within their own fire departments. It’s an important and effective way to share knowledge,” Smeins explains.

Charitable giving is second nature to these firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and 100 percent of profits from sales of Brotherhood Bourbon will go to the burn camp.

Sponsored by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the burn camp affords children who have been injured in fires an opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities and fun.

The F.O.O.L.S asked Cedar Falls Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits to come on board as distributor. “With liquor laws and regulations as they are, requiring a designated license holder, they couldn’t just go through the distillery. I was more than happy to help them make it happen,” says Matt Van Ee, Cedar Falls Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits manager.

He was impressed all the proceeds are dedicated to the burn camp. “I think that’s awesome. It helps kids be kids who have gone through pretty tough ordeals.

If you can lighten the load and help kids forget about it for a while, if I can help make that happen, I’m there,” Van Ee says.

Several years ago, while touring the family-owned, small-batch distillery in LeClaire, Smeins learned the group could purchase a barrel of bourbon and have it bottled with their own label.

Members toasted the unique fundraising idea at a sampling of three bourbons provided by the distillery. After choosing their bourbon, it took time to design a label and receive necessary state and federal approvals before the project could move forward.

Finally the group was able to present and sell 150 limited edition bottles at an event last fall. The Cedar Falls Hy-Vee presented a donation of $1,875, with additional pledges and donations, including from the store’s Market Grille and the distillery company itself, bringing the total to $2,713.

Overall, the F.O.O.L.S contributed more than $5,000 to St. Florian.

Brotherhood Bourbon is described by Smeins as a “very smooth, very good bourbon. We knew it would sell out, so we wanted it to be a great product.”

This year, two barrels were bottled for a limited edition of 300 bottles. Each barrel produces 150 bottles. The first barrel will be released and tasted Thursday at Cedar Falls Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits.

A second barrel release program is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at the same location.


Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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