You don’t have to look far to find a craft brewery with a veteran connection that is doing right by America’s heroes. At the Diamond Bear Brewery in Little Rock, Ar., they are supportive of their local military bases—Little Rock Air Force Base and Camp Robinson. Not only do they offer veteran discounts on brewery tours, they also send beer with airmen participating in the biannual Airdrop International Competition and to the Wounded Warrior Project when they hold events in the area.
This is due, in part, to the close military ties within the brewery. Owner Russ Melton is retired from the Army, and his son is currently an operations manager for the Arkansas National Guard. Andy Applegate, a minority owner of Diamond Bear, retired from the U.S. Air Force after 28 years of service.
More Veteran-Owned Breweries
- Orlando Brewing | Orlando, FL
Honors active and retired military with free beer on Veteran’s Day, a tradition they started in 2006.
- Aiken Brewing Company | Aiken, SC
Five of the six brewers at are veterans at Aiken, which is owned by retired Marine Rob Pruiett.
- Cavalry Brewing Company | Oxford, CT
Owner and brewer Mike McCreary was on active duty for three years and in the Army reserves for 19 years before serving in Iraq in 2003.
- Red Leg Brewing Company | Colorado Springs, CO
Owner and president Todd Baldwin served as an artillery officer in Iraq for more than two years.
Finding Inspiration Through Service
At least two of the rising names in craft beer can thank Uncle Sam for partial inspiration. Brewer Karlos Knott first discovered good beer while serving as Cavalry Scout while stationed in Germany for six years. After being submerged in such a frothy culture, he returned home and later began Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, La.
Megan Parisi spent nearly five years in the U.S. Navy Band stationed at Washington Navy Yard which, ironically, is only a few blocks from the future site of Bluejacket Brewery, an operation she will command.
“It finally occurred to me that the only other thing for which I’d had any real passion was brewing,” said Parisi. “I had been homebrewing for nearly ten years by that point and it clicked that I could make this into a career. It’s ironic to have come full circle this way. One career came to an end—one that I would have preferred to not end at all—which led me to my next career, eventually bringing me back to the point of origin. Had it not been for my Navy career, my brewing career would never have been possible.”
Brewers Giving Back
The Fort Street Brewery in Lincoln Park, Mich., has been in operation since February 2005. Brewmaster Doug Beedy spent 10 years in the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard. A few years ago the brewery decided they wanted to create a charity event around Veteran’s Day.
Being brewers, they often celebrated odd holidays, including National Indian Pudding Day (NIPD), which falls on November 13. Fort Street decided to combine the two holidays and make a beer using the ingredients found in the pudding. Their NIPD event serves the group Homes For Our Troops, and donations are collected for the cause.
“This year we are celebrating NIPD for three days, so we hope to raise a record amount for Homes For Our Troops,” said Beedy.
There are many ways to thank a veteran that goes beyond mere words. One obvious suggestion, buy them a pint and don’t just limit the gesture to one day a year.