Support pours in for Garner craft brewer fighting cancer

GARNER, NC (WTVD) -- Any good beer starts with 4 ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast. But the Triangle's tight-knit craft beer community is adding a big dose of love for one of their own.

Just a few weeks ago Kris Bengtson was seemingly healthy and obviously proud to show off the brewery he's been dreaming about for years.

A year ago, with the help of investors and personal loans, Bengtson and his wife Dana, both school teachers in Johnston County, opened Brice's Brewing Company, Garner's very first beer brewery and taproom

But Dana said that last month, two days after Christmas, Kris suddenly felt sick and had trouble breathing.

"His regular physician thought it was just an upper-respiratory infection and he needed antibiotics," she said. "And, I finally had enough of him not being able to sleep."

Five days and two hospitals later, doctors at UNC Hospitals diagnosed Bengtson, who is just 38 years old with a 1-year old daughter, with an aggressive form of throat cancer.

It took doctors 11 hours to remove a tumor but they still don't know what type of cancer they're fighting.

"We don't even know if he's going to need radiation or chemotherapy or if the surgery he just had got it all and nothing else is needed," Dana said.

While Bengtson remains heavily sedated in the Intensive Care Unit at UNC, the local craft beer community has stepped up to help his family with medical bills and keep his small business open.

An online fundraiser brought in over $8,000 in donations so far. And a growing list of breweries are planning to hold fundraisers.

"I haven't been surprised, but I've been so grateful that that's how this industry is," said Larry Lane, Bengtson's friend and co-owner of Double Barley Brewing in Smithfield.

"Our head brewer has gotten with White Labs to donate all the yeast that (Brice's) needs for its next batch coming," Lane said. "I know a lot of people donating grains and we're holding a fundraiser for them on February 25th at (Double Barley) brewery."

Bengtson's wife has been taken aback by all the outpouring of support.

"I'm overwhelmed but humbled," Dana said. "(Kris and I) both firmly believe that if you're good people and you ask for help, that it will come. And it's coming back to him in a huge way."

Until doctors at UNC determine the form of cancer they're dealing with, there is no real prognosis for recovery.

This Saturday, Bottle Rev in Apex is hosting the first of what will be many fundraising events.
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