To the rescue: ‘For Paws Porter’ helps animals

— Photo from Mike Wenzel
Armfuls of dog: Chris and Mike Wenzel pose with some of their many animals, all of them rescues. The dogs, from left, are Patches, Piper, and Julie. The white pony in the foreground is Indy, and the off-the-track Thoroughbred in back is Ranger.

HILLTOWNS — Mike Wenzel and his wife, Chris, love animals.

“My wife and I don’t have any kids. We have a bunch of animals,” said Wenzel.

They’ve taken in old dogs no one else wanted and given them a good end to their lives. They have a cat, who came to them as a four-week-old kitten. “My wife was getting hay and found it in the barn,” Wenzel said.

The Wenzels have even rescued a horse — a Thoroughbred whose days at the track were over.

Chris Wenzel has worked at the Albany County Veterinary Hospital in Guilderland since 1985. Mike Wensel works for an engineering company, doing energy analysis.

“We’re always thinking how else we can help animals,” he said.

Their latest idea is called “For Paws Porter,” a dark beer.

In 2015, Mike Wenzel and Chris Smith started the Helderberg Mountain Brewing Company in the basement of the Smiths’ restaurant, Maple on the Lake on Warners Lake.

“I’d been brewing beer at home for 25 years,” said Wenzel who will soon be 50.

Smith, who is also an Albany County legislator, “had too much going on,” said Wenzel and his part of the business was taken over by Sean McGrath, a building control contractor who lives in Clarksville, and Michael Young, from East Berne who works for the United States Postal Service.

The trio runs a New York farm-licensed brewery and brews beer in small, 40-gallon batches. “Our goal is to use as much New York grain and hops as we can. Many of our beers made with 100-percent New York-grown products,” said Wenzel.

To raise funds for animal rescue, they brew “For Paws Porter.” One dollar of each beer sold goes to a not-for-profit organization. A 12-ounce beer sells for $5, and a 16-ounce, or pint-size, beer sells for $6.

“The ‘For Paws Porter’ beer is an English style porter and is served on one of our nitrogen taps, which is the same dispensing method as a Guinness stout found at bars and restaurants,” said Wenzel. This makes the beer creamier, he said, and “provides more mouthfeel,” enhancing the chocolate, coffee, and roasted barley flavors in the beer.

The brewery has a Tap Room at 83 Main Street in East Berne, open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings with music playing each Saturday afternoon. The brewery also hosts fundraisers in its pavilion. “Food can be catered by Maple on the Lake. People bake desserts, bring in cheese platters,” said Wenzel “On the event day, we donate a dollar for every beer, cider, or wine sold.”

Groups have raised anywhere from $200 up to over $1,000 at a single event, Wenzel said.

“Last year, in 2018, we donated over $3,500 to different animal-rescue groups,” Wenzel said.These have included animal sanctuaries, groups that train seeing-eye dogs, and groups that have traumatized veterans take care of horses.

“They don’t ride,” he said of the veterans in the therapy program. “Taking care of a horse helps them cope with everything.”

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