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Dandelions for daffodil month: Windsor-Essex craft brewers raise funds for Cancer Awareness Month

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A Kingsville, Ont. brewer is dedicating sales of a special beer this month in honour of his late mother.

Top Dog Brewing Company owner Kieran Buzek lost his mother Shelley in December 2023 after a 15-year battle with breast cancer. His loss prompted him to take part in the Fine N’ Dandy Project to raise awareness for local cancer research.

“April is Cancer Awareness Month,” said Buzek. “Response has been good. The first batch I’ve completely sold out of. I’ve got the next batch coming up that'll be ready by the end of this week.”

Buzek’s lemon raddler is dandelion root infused, which is the main rule to participate in the craft beer initiative.

“It has a little bit of an earthiness and kind of bitterness to the back end of your palate,” Buzek explained. “So that's why I decided to do a lemon raddler with it, just to kind of balance it out.”

The Fine N’ Dandy Project began in 2016 when Walkerville Brewery brewer Jeffery Craig was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, then collaborating with Craft Heads Brewing Company’s Bryan Datoc on a beer featuring dandelions as the main ingredient to help in the fight against cancer.

Since 2016, the Fine N' Dandy Project has raised $23,163 to benefit the Windsor Cancer Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and other various charities throughout Windsor-Essex.

“I feel like it's something that we can keep growing as the years go on and I think the ultimate goal would be to get a lot of other breweries in, not just Windsor-Essex, but Ontario to partake in it as well,” said Buzek.

Walkerville Brewery co-owner Mike Brkovich said the Fine N’ Dandy Project remains a great tradition each year since Craig’s passing in 2017. Five breweries across the region have joined the initiative this year.

Top Dog Brewing Company owner Kieran Buzek shows off his Fine N' Dandy lemon raddler beer in Kingsville, Ont. on April 24, 2024. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“It's very near and dear to us and Jeff was very active in the community and it was near and dear to him as well,” Brkovich told CTV News Windsor. “His passion was brewing. He came up with this dandelion beer and we're really happy to introduce it every year because all of us have had a loved one in our life that has had to battle cancer at some time.”

Along with Top Dog Brewing Company, Chapter Two Brewing Company, Craft Heads Brewing Company, Jake’s Windsor Brew and Rose City Beer join Walkerville Brewery for the eighth year of the Fine N’ Dandy Project.

“I think it's great for our community,” Brkovich said. “I think it's great for the Craig family and it's just wonderful. It's typical Windsor rallying around the cause and all these charities benefiting from it.”

According to Buzek, a Fine N’ Dandy fundraiser takes place this Sunday at the Erie St GastroPub between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. with many other local breweries. $1 from each can sold will also go toward the Dr. Michelle Prince Comfort Care Tote Program.

“Dr. Michelle and my mom were very good friends and Michelle got diagnosed a couple years after my mom did and then she passed away in 2018,” he said. “So I figured there's no way better to honour her legacy than to donate to there.”

Buzek noted since many families are going through their own cancer journey, 11 names of people impacted by cancer in some way shape or form have been included on the can as another dedication.

“It's something that not just my family has been affected from, families all across Windsor and Essex and all across the world,” he said. “So I wanted to try to get as many people involved in the project as I possibly could.” 

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