November 11 is a day to honor our nation’s veterans. One way to do that is to support the more than 3 million veteran-owned businesses in the United States, including the handful of craft breweries run by former service members. These small brewers not only provide much-needed career opportunities for those who’ve served (23% of veterans reported being underemployed, a 2014 CareerBuilder survey found), but many also donate a portion of their profits to military-focused charities. That’s all the more reason to crack open a beer from one of these breweries and toast those who’ve dedicated their lives to service.
1. Compass Rose IPA, Service Brewing Co.
Service Brewing Co. in Savannah, Ga., is veteran owned and operated. Kevin Ryan, who founded the business in 2011, is a West Point graduate who served in Iraq. The company donates a portion of its revenue to charities that support service, like the Honor Our Heroes Foundation and K9s for Warriors.
The Compass Rose IPA honors those who’ve served in the Navy. The beer features grapefruit and pear notes, which are “balanced by a fresh grain breadiness” and hints of passion fruit and orange peel. Head to the brewery’s tasting room in Savannah to try it for yourself.
2. Blonde Bomber, Veteran Beer Company
Chicago’s Veteran Beer Company isn’t just in the business of producing tasty beers. The company is also committed to helping veterans develop “meaningful post-service careers.” Everyone who works for Veteran Beer Company is a former service member, and the company takes all the profits from its beer sales and uses them to create more jobs for ex-military members. Plus, 10% of every sale goes to veterans’ charities.
You can find Veteran Beer Company products in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. The company describes the Blonde Bomber, one of its two beers, as “a true craft beer created for drinkers that love a beer with a gentle flavor profile and a pleasing texture.”
3. Night Vision American Stout, Young Veterans Brewing Company
A shared home-brewing hobby helped inspired friends and Iraq War veterans Thomas Wilder and Neil McCannon to launch Virginia Beach-based Young Veterans Brewing Company in 2012. The challenge of transitioning back to civilian life after serving overseas was another reason both turned to entrepreneurship, a move that they hope will inspire other veterans.
“For me, it’s sort of my way of showing that after service there’s more to do,” Wilder told Fox News in 2013. “For a lot of soldiers who come home, there’s a lot of trouble. I’ve been through that and I know what that’s like.” They don’t just lead by example. The company also hosts monthly Vet Noise events to support veterans charities.
Young Veterans Brewing Company has six flagship beers, as well as a rotating selection of seasonal and special release brews. You can find its products at its taproom as well as at bars and restaurants across Virginia. Night Vision, a lighter-bodied American stout, is available year-round and features notes of roasted coffee and dark chocolate.
4. Buzzin’ Bee Honey Rye Wheat, Veterans United Craft Brewery
U.S. Navy veteran Ron Gamble launched Veterans United Craft Brewery in 2013 with the goal of producing high-quality craft beer while also making a positive contribution to the local Jacksonville community. In addition to Gamble, many of the 18 investors in the venture are veterans, and the brewery hosts veteran-related events, like a recent panel on veterans and military initiatives in Jacksonville. Veterans United also supports service-related charities such as Wreaths Across America, which lays wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers during the holiday season.
Buzzin’ Bee Honey Rye Wheat, an American-style unfiltered wheat ale, is one of the company’s four year-round beers. It’s made with Florida honey and has hints of rye and sweet orange peel. You can find it at the brewery’s Jacksonville taproom and at area bars and restaurants.
5. Valor Ale, 14th Star Brewing
Steve Gagner dreamed up the idea for Vermont’s 14th Star Brewing while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. In 2012, the brewery opened for business and quickly ramped up production. Today, it produces eight different beers, including its signature Valor Ale, which you can find at its taproom in St. Albans and at restaurants, bars, and retailers throughout Vermont. A portion of proceeds from the sale of Valor Ale go to the Purple Hearts United Foundation, a nonprofit that works to reunite veterans with lost or stolen medals of valor.
“One of the greatest fears a soldier can have is that his sacrifices will be for naught,” notes a company blog post. “We pledge that every day we’re in business is a day to remember, honor, and show our appreciation for those who ask so little, yet give so much.”