Brewer’s Health Initiative brought the beer to lighten up the conversation about prostate health

It’s day two of Beerliner and Chill at the Great American Beer Festival, do you know how your prostate’s doing?

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Josh Kweller, 36, takes advantage of free PSA testing at Beerliner and Chill. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Outside of the Great American Beer Festival, a line of eager beer enthusiasts stretched around the block for an already sold-out event. Just across the street was a more laid-back party.

On a sunny but cold October Thursday, about 100 people, mostly men, hung out in the Focus parking lot: sipping down home Texan beers, lounging in hammocks, socializing — or getting their blood tested.

It’s day two of Beerliner and Chill at the Great American Beer Festival, do you know how your prostate’s doing?

Pints for Prostates, the Prostate Conditions Education Council and 1400 Miles returned for a second year to bring the Brewer’s Health Initiative’s Beerliner and Chill party to the Great American Beer Festival.

By combining beer and prostate awareness, the three organizations hope to open the conversation around routine prostate screenings and eliminate stigma.

“That stigma is there, we are trying to find a way forward,” said Pints for Prostates founder Rick Lyke. “We use the universal language of beer to reach men.”

A couple of beer-loving folks hang in hammocks at Beerliner and Chill. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
A couple of beer-loving folks hang in hammocks at Beerliner and Chill. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Lyke was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, at age 37. He said he had no symptoms, and that type of cancer didn’t run in his family. He only got checked because a friend of his was diagnosed — that friend has since passed away.

Today, Lyke is cancer-free. But his own experience with prostate cancer prompted him to action.

Each year the American Cancer Society reports more than 25,000 deaths from prostate cancer, a number Lyke thinks is far too high. The prognosis is very good, an almost 100 percent five-year survival rate, if the cancer is detected on time.

“Our goal is to give guys early warning, to take charge of their health. That’s our main message,” Lyke explained.

For only a $10 admission to the party, and the price of a few brews, men at the Beerliner and Chill party have access to on-the-spot male health screenings. North Carolina-based Pints for Prostates administers PSA, or Prostate Specific Antigen, blood tests to any event attendee.

The tests took about one to two minutes and tested for prostate health, blood sugar and cholesterol levels and testosterone. Tests like this typically cost about $700, but Pints for Prostates offers them free.

Beerliner and Chill, the Texas craft beer showcase, has been around for six years. It’s been has promoting prostate health for two. And Pints for Prostates has been at it for eight.

The real Beerliner is a tricked out bus with taps on the side from Texas, of course. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
The real Beerliner is a tricked out bus with taps on the side from Texas, of course. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Lyke said they have had a booth inside the festival every year for the past eight, offering the same health screening services.

In the eight years since its inception, Pints for Prostates has raised about $1.2 million. About $4,000 to $6,000 comes from the Beerliner and Chill event, according to Renee Savickas, vice president of Prostate Conditions Education Council.

That money goes straight back into free health screenings for men and support groups, in the event that someone is diagnosed.

Funding also comes from partner 1400 miles.

This kinetic organization adds bikes to beer-fueled prostate health awareness. Founder Davis Tucker, a craft brewer from Texas, founded 1400 miles in 2013. He, too, has a story about prostate cancer.

After his brewmaster at NxNW brewery was diagnosed with the disease (he is now cancer-free), Tucker got on his bike and began a 1,400 mile bike-ride from Austin to Denver’s Great American Beer Festival to raise money for prostate cancer awareness.

Three years later, eight riders made the full, 1400 mile trek, with five or six joining for stretches. The organization raised about $100,000 this year alone to help fund Prostates for Pints and launch campaigns to raise awareness around routine prostate testing, and reduce stigma with beer and a bit of humor.

Their slogan? “Don’t fear the finger.”

“A majority of beer drinkers are men and the majority of people with a prostate are men,” Tucker joked. “We thought bikes, beer and prostate health was a good combination.”

And the message seemed to be getting across. By 3:00 p.m. of day two of the festival, Pints for Prostates had already administered about 65 tests, Savickas said.

Jeff Willis, 42, is a born Coloradan who moved to Texas to open Skull Mechanix brewery. After getting his blood drawn, he explained that his grandfather passed away from prostate cancer.

Jeff Willis, 42, gets tested because he knows first-hand the dangers of prostate cancer. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Jeff Willis, 42, gets tested because he knows first-hand the dangers of prostate cancer. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

“Awareness is key,” he said. “Add beer and you’re going to get guys’ attention, and get them to think about their health.”

The Brewer’s Health Initiative administered about 150 PSA tests at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival. They hope to double that number this year.

Beerliner and Chill goes until 10 p.m. Friday and 5:00 p.m. Saturday. Free-testing will resume Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Buy advance tickets here.

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at caiello@denverite.com or twitter.com/chlobo_ilo.

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