ALICIA THOMAS

Company: Work For Your Beer; Sugar Creek Brewing
Position: Co-Founder; Marketing Manager (Respectively)
Age: 24

WHERE WERE YOU BORN?

Hershey, Pennsylvania.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN THE CHARLOTTE AREA?

A year and a half.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOU?

I moved to NoDa in September 2015 before I had a job lined up in Charlotte, before I had seen the apartment, before I had really even gotten to know the Queen City. I just had a feeling that I was supposed to end up here, and as it turned out, I was right.

I now work full-time as the Marketing Manager for Sugar Creek Brewing, and I am the co-founder of Work For Your Beer, which I call my “side hustle.” We're currently dedicating all of our resources for Work For Your Beer to raising funds for the 24 Foundation's fight against cancer. Between all of these gigs, there's not a day of the week that I find myself bored! I'm constantly going, and that's exactly the way I like it.

When I have spare time, you'll find me on my yoga mat, studying for the Certified Cicerone exam (the equivalent of the sommelier exam, but all about beer rather than wine), volunteering for causes I care deeply about (such as the 24 Foundation or the Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue), or planning my next travel adventure.

DURING YOUR TIME VOLUNTEERING FOR A COMMUNITY ACTIVITY OR PROJECT, WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT?

Throughout all of high school and college, I volunteered for the Penn State Panhellenic/IFC Dance Marathon, known lovingly in our community as “THON.” This annual 46-hour dance marathon is accompanied by a year-round effort to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer, and the funds go directly to families trying to afford treatment for their children.

My senior year of high school, I met a boy my age named Nick Pantalone. He was valedictorian of his high school, an avid lover of Disney Pixar movies and roller coasters, and he had recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 abdominal cancer. When Nick came to our high school's “Mini-THON,” he was treated very carefully as a “pediatric cancer patient” rather than like an 18-year-old high school senior. While we had a water balloon fight, he was sheltered around the edges of the game rather than being included. I walked right up to him and hit him with a water balloon, he smiled and laughed, and we became great friends right on the spot.

My sophomore year of college, Nick passed away. I continued to dedicate my time and energy to raising money for THON for families like his, who needed financial support to afford his treatments and emotional support as he went through the trials and tribulations of Stage 4 cancer. On the face of every laughing child at THON each year, I saw a little glimmer of Nick, who inspired me and so many other people at Penn State to work hard for this cause.

Now as an adult, I volunteer for the 24 Foundation, continuing to raise money for cancer research and treatment. Nick's story is one of many that I've seen over the years. I lost my internship supervisor to skin cancer. My uncle has colon cancer. My aunt has breast cancer. My stepdad has fought skin cancer. There are so many people touched by this disease all around us, and to raise money for that cause makes me feel less helpless against the pervasive, ruthless illness.

IN YOUR OPINION, HOW DO YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMUNITY?

Through my work at Sugar Creek Brewing, I manage the company's donation requests. Charitable organizations reach out to us all the time requesting donations of beer, merchandise, or space in support of their cause, and as often as I can, I work to find a way for us to contribute to them. Sugar Creek Brewing is very active in the community, giving back wherever we're able to do so, and I take pride in managing that aspect of our business.

Through Work For Your Beer, I take pride in writing content that provides much-needed information that allows Charlotte residents to lead healthy, balanced lifestyles. The content I write for the pages on our website gives people the details they need about fitness activities happening at breweries, bottle shops, and more around the city, so they're able to go out and get active. Many of these people are intimidated by traditional gym environments, or they are unable to afford a fitness membership, or they just weren't sure where to start with their health and wellness goals. By providing detailed information about where people can work out in these approachable, affordable environments, I'm making it easier for the Charlotte community to start living a healthier and more balanced lifestyle.

Yes, there is beer involved. And for some people, that beer is the “carrot” dangling at the end of the workout. “If I can make it through this set of squats, there's a Pilsner waiting for me on the other side,” may sound silly, but if that one beer is what gets them out and active, I call that balance.

I also write content featuring members of Charlotte's beer fitness community. Brewery yoga instructors, beer run club leaders, and more have been featured on her blog, where I interview them to promote a sense of community among the rest of Work For Your Beer's audience. We are trying to make it easier than ever for people to join and become part of this community, which makes it easier for people to get fit, but also to make friends, network, and support local businesses.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OR INTEREST?

I enjoy yoga, writing, reading, dancing, traveling, hiking, live music, flowers and gardening, cooking, and craft beer.

I absolutely love my Great Pyrenees, Luna Lovegood, whom we adopted from a family in Virginia. I also enjoy planning adventures around the world with my boyfriend of five years, Andrew Valenski, whom I have lived with since moving here to Charlotte a year and a half ago.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE THAT YOU STAND BY?

"If you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen." - Conan O'Brien.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS?

Five years from now, my goal is to have grown both Sugar Creek Brewing and Work For Your Beer to be brands that are known up and down the East Coast, if not across the country.

Both brands have such incredible products—there is nothing like one of Sugar Creek's Belgian-style beers, and as you've seen with all the recent videos about beer yoga around the world, the beer fitness trend is here to stay.

Both of these phenomenons deserve to be shared with the world, and my goal is to be an integral part of that!

CAN YOU SHARE ONE THING THAT IS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?

I have a lengthy bucket list, and I've been working hard to cross all of the items off of it! However, I think the number one to-do on my bucket list is to write a book. I've always been an avid writer, and every English teacher I've ever had has been convinced that I would be a novelist. I'd like to prove them right.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU USED YOUR PASSPORT?

Two years ago when we traveled to Riviera Maya, Mexico! We have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. since then, including to Hawaii, and our next trip will be to Curacao this December.

WHAT IS ONE FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NO ONE KNOWS?

The last time that I was in Iceland, I tasted a national delicacy: rotting shark flesh with Brennavin, also known as “Black Death.” It was an interesting experience, to say the least!

WHO IS YOUR HERO?

My hero is my maternal grandmother, my Nana. My Nana has had such a life of hardship, but she is the strongest person I've ever known—despite the constant difficulties she's faced since her childhood, she still continues to be one of the most positive, optimistic, and caring people that I know. To continue to be so positive despite such hardships is nothing short of miraculous to me, and she inspires me to face adversity with a smile every day!

WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?

I just read the book “Shrill” by Lindy West, which sucked me in from the first page and encouraged me to stand up for women as often as possible in my daily life.

WHAT WAS THE LAST MOVIE YOU SAW?

The new “Beauty and the Beast” with Emma Watson, which was absolutely enchanting and a perfect precursor to my first-ever trip to Walt Disney World in May!

WHAT WAS THE LAST CONCERT YOU SAW?

I saw Weezer and Panic! At The Disco play in Charlotte, which was an incredible show.