Philly expat hosting benefit for Australia bushfire recovery at Khyber Pass Pub

In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP)

In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP)

Over the winter holidays, Philly expat Kylie Flett visited her home in Adelaide, Australia for nearly a month.

She visited the tourism destinations near the southern coastal city, like wineries in the Adelaide Hills, and observed the flora and fauna on Kangaroo Island.

By the time she was back in the States, the mountains east of Adelaide were in flames, devastating many of the wineries she had visited during the trip. On Kangaroo Island, fire has ravaged half of the land and destroyed much of its koala population.

“It feels like I’m watching my country burn from the other side of the world,” Flett said. “I feel completely helpless.”

With Australia Day (a national holiday with some complicated history) coming up on Jan. 26, Flett wanted to do something more than the usual brunch celebration she hosts annually at her place.

Flett, a booze and restaurant publicist with Punch Media, is organizing an Aussie-themed Bushfire Benefit on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Old City’s Khyber Pass Pub for the country’s most at-risk creatures and regions.

Across town, Jet Wine Bar at 16th and South streets is kicking off a weeklong Wine Relief event starting Jan. 23. Known for its interest in international vino, they’ll offer 10 Australian wines — including some from the Adelaide wineries hit hard by the fires — as well as the Shiraz 75, a special take on the French 75 cocktail, made with Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin from Australia’s Victoria region.

“These areas, Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills, they survive a lot on tourism. Right now, they’re being affected more than just by the bushfires. Their future income is being completely cut off,” Flett said. “It’s just really important for us to support those businesses during this time.”

Flett says $5 from each cocktail, wine glass or wine flight at Jet will go toward Nature Foundation’s Wildlife Recovery Fund, which is working on establishing new habitats for the surviving animals in South Australia that have been affected by the bushfires.

Over at Khyber Pass on Jan. 25, expect an Oz-themed extravaganza. From noon to 4 p.m., attendees can enjoy beer from Adelaide’s Coopers Brewery — Flett’s hometown favorite.

Flett said they’ll also offer sausage rolls and 150 beef pies from Four’n Twenty, an Australian purveyor of traditional meat pies, so you can get a taste of down under cuisine.

A $20 donation at the door is suggested — which will come with a welcome beer or wine. Flett’s fundraising goal is $5,000 with proceeds going to Adelaide Koala Rescue and Kangaroo Island Mayoral Fund.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the admission donation and a raffle — which includes brewery gift baskets from Allagash and Philly Loves Beer, Arden Theatre tickets, and a potsticker class at Baology – will go to the two charities.

Flett said it’s been difficult to avoid all of the devastating images from her homeland popping up on social media.

“All of the images that have been coming in have been very heavy and not just for Australians,” Flett said. “A lot of people have been reaching out to me asking how they can help. This is a way for me … to bring together people in Philadelphia and seeing how much we can raise.”

Last year was the hottest and driest year on record in Australia. Flett said the continent hasn’t even reached the midpoint of bushfire season yet, so there’s still a lot more support communities will need as the year goes on.

“It’s hard to fathom the catastrophic effect that these bushfires are having on Australia right now,” Flett said. “If you’re just a human and care, you should care about what is happening right now.”

The Khyber Pass benefit will be held in the pub’s renovated, newly-reopened performance space that once was Philly’s indie rock mecca.

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