Things got hairy as Maovember wrapped up its 2016 campaign last Wednesday at Beer Mania as owner Thierry de Dobbeleer put his bountiful beard on the line, with a result far from expected.
Last year, de Dobbeleer put two donation jars—one marked “Shave” and one “No Shave”—on his bar counter. The idea: the jar with the most money would decide the fate of his substantial facial foliage. And the Shave poster made it pretty clear the result for which he hoped:
He got it. After a month of fundraising, No Shave edged Shave rmb1,587 to rmb998, thus raising rmb2,585 and saving the beard.
This year, de Dobbeleer held the campaign again, and no one knew how high the stakes would be raised.
But first Beer Mania held two other events to support Maovember: The first was an October 15 contest that featured free flow Grisette beer and popular dice game shaizi that raised rmb1,500.
The second was a “win your weight in beer” draw on November 15, held for Belgian’s King’s Day in partnership with Belgians in Beijing. Keith Robinson ended up winning eight cases—or 192 bottles—of Omer beer, then auctioned it on the spot for rmb1,350. With proceeds from draw tickets and a slice of Omer sales that night, the event raised rmb4,690.
Much more was to come November 30 with the culmination of the 2016 rendition of Shave vs No Shave. Those following the contest were guessing the vessels had more money than 2015, with early estimates in the area of rmb5,000.
De Dobbeleer had a charged razor ready to go, just in case, but at that point still expected to maintain his mane.
Maovember supporters Alex Jennings and Keith Robinson arrived early and got things rolling by stuffing several thousand kuai into the Shave jar. As more regulars arrived, donations continued to flow, from Beer Mania customers, from staff, and from key supporters like Paul Rochon of Paddy O’Shea’s, Jack Zhou of Groovy Schiller’s and Mariano Larrain of La Cava. They also came via WeChat, including from PR consultant Neil Holt and ex-Union Bar & Grille manager Charlie, now in Taipei, who emptied the rest of his WeChat wallet.
Robinson was there until the end, with his only break being to find a cash machine to donate more money.
“I thought it was very big of Thierry to do this,” he said. “By putting it on social media and making it a ‘thing’, it drove more people to donate. I put money in both jars—but more in shave.”
Jennings also stuck around through midnight, pushing another RMB 1,000 into Shave during the last hour, when the donations were coming fast and furious.
At midnight, the jars were opened and publicly counted by two teams of two people, each double-checking the other. The result: Shave with rmb10,626 defeated No Shave with rmb7,889.
With additional late donations of rmb1,000 and 70 euros, the event passed rmb20,000—or 200,000 mao—by a whisker.
And de Dobbeleer was nowhere to be found.
Some speculated he needed time alone with his beard, which he had been growing for nearly four years. Others thought he might be headed to the airport. Ten minutes later, he was found in the hotel lobby behind Beer Mania, taking one last photo with another bearded wonder: Santa Claus.
Then it was to the stage to shave. His fiance Jona, a fan of his beard but resigned to its fate, did the honors. She sheared off the bulk, then worked on the finer points, as donors took photos and cheered.
“Thierry definitely made the evening memorable,” says Jennings, citing “the look of desperation and shock when he realized he would lose the beard.”
“It was all in good fun,” adds Robinson. “By making it a competition, it drove more people to get involved. Maovember is a really good way to meet people, a good way to be social, and a good way to give something back.”
The next day was a clean start for de Dobbeleer, who posed with his old friend and his new look.
“He looks so much more handsome without the beard,” says Jennings. “Money well spent.”
Counting the funds from the shaizi contest and the “win your weight in beer” event, Beer Mania raised more than rmb26,000 this year. And De Dobbeleer is already working on a new beard.