By Fritz Hahn
Veterans have always been involved in the brewing industry, going back to the early days of the republic. These days, though, they’re more visible than ever, thanks to veteran-owned breweries with names such as Service, Honor and Young Veterans, and as liquor stores and bars across the country stock beers called Freedom Isn’t Free IPA, Devil Dog Stout or Boot Camp Brown Ale.
There are no hard numbers to track the number of veterans starting their own breweries: The Brewers Association, a national trade association for craft breweries, doesn’t track or ask about the service of brewery founders, says director Paul Gatza, but there’s no question that interest is growing.
The annual Craft Brewers Conference, which draws more than 10,000 industry professionals to a different city each year, included a “Veterans Roundtable” this year for the first time, allowing brewers who’d served in any branch of the military to network, talk shop and trade advice.
In many ways, it makes sense that veterans would be drawn to brewing: As of Nov. 30, there were 4,144 breweries in America, the highest number in the country’s history and double the number in 2011. At the same time, the downsizing of the military means more veterans are looking for work and getting help through such organizations as the Jonas Project, a nonprofit group that helps turn veterans into entrepreneurs.
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