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Veteran-Owned Breweries You May Not Know About

launch pad brewery tap handles

Full disclosure, I’m a 20-year Navy veteran. In studying breweries, and meeting with their owners, it became clear that a huge number of those brewery owners had also served time in the armed forces, in fact, a much larger number than you would expect statistically.

I love Service Brewing, Fair Winds and many others who truly do a great job of incorporating their service background into the identity of the brewery, but we wanted to take it a step further to help shine some light on the men and women who you might not have realized spent time serving before their brewing days. This is attempt to help you see how many there are, and profile a handful. You will see some common threads emerge.

(READ: Veteran-Owned Service Brewing in Savannah, GA)

The Bold Mariner Brewing Co.

Founders:  Michael Stacks and Jared Tuxill, Navy
Location: Norfolk, VA
Nearby Navy Facilities:
Naval Station Norfolk
Naval Air Station Norfolk
Naval Air Station Oceana
Portsmouth Naval Hospital
Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek
Dam Neck Fleet Training Center
Naval Weapons Station Yorktown
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

News flash, sailors like beer. So much so, that Michael has been a home brewer since going on active duty nearly 20 years ago. The idea of opening a brewery grew out of so many shipmates enjoying his home brew. Michael and Jared decided Norfolk needed a craft brewery, and opened Bold Mariner while still on active duty. They still serve today. If you’ve heard of Bold Mariner, it may be because of their Unicorn Beer from last spring. It got a LOT of attention. The thing is they release an experimental beer every Thursday! Stop in and try one.

Military Lesson: If it needs doing, do it.

Spencer Devon Brewing

Founder: Shawn Phillips, Marine Corps
Location: Fredericksburg, VA
Nearby Marine Facility:
Marine Corps Base Quantico

Shawn is a retired Marine Corps Logistics Officer. He enlisted in the Marines to get involved in facility and club management. 24 years later, he decided it was time to go run his own place. Sure, Marines at Quantico might know Spencer Devon is owned by a former Marine, but most of his Fredericksburg customers probably don’t. Shawn’s look is pure brewer now, and the Spencer Devon branding does not reveal a military heritage. Instead, it’s a full-service brewpub with an expansive menu that fits very neatly into its suburban DC setting. Shawn was so committed to the Marines that he did tours as a Drill Instructor and Series Commander at Parris Island. Now he’s committed to a new group of customers.

Military Lesson: Give them your best.

Launch Pad Brewery

Founders: David Levesque and Henry Rusch, Air Force
Location: Aurora, CO
Nearby Air Force Facility:
Buckley AFB

Launch Pad embraces the theme of missiles and space launch vehicles. In fact, they show live launches in the taproom, and will change their hours to cover a launch. SpaceX Falcon Heavy would have been a good one to enjoy over a beer. That branding choice isn’t surprising since David and Henry both did their last active duty tours at Buckley Air Force Base and both have space and missile backgrounds. Their “location has been a gold mine” says David. It probably doesn’t hurt the beer is awesome. So awesome that their Peacekeeper recently took home a Bronze medal at this year’s World Beer Cup. When you visit, be sure to check out the special release bombers in the cooler. David got exposed to the world of craft beer when he was stationed at Buckley. That made him a homebrewer, and that led to a brewery. Demand is so high for their beer that they are currently going through an expansion to meet the need.

Military Lesson: Give them what they want.

Rip Rap Brewing

Founder: Liam Bell, Coast Guard
Location: Norfolk, VA
Nearby Coast Guard Facilities:
CG Sector Hampton Roads
CG Base Portsmouth
CG Station Little Creek

Did we say that sailors like beer? Liam Bell was exposed to home brewing while at the Coast Guard Academy, but wasn’t able to start home brewing himself until he got into his first shore tour in the Hampton Roads area. Not unlike other start-up breweries, Rip Rap was born out of the encouragement of friends and a desire to be a maker. While certainly nautically themed, Rip Rap isn’t overtly Coast Guard. Ever the entrepreneur, Bell fashioned most of the brew house out of random equipment found at auctions.

Military Lesson: Make it work.

Southern Pines Brewing

Founders: Micah Niebauer and Jason Ginos, Army
Location: Southern Pines, NC
Nearby Army Facility:
Fort Bragg

Have you seen 12 Strong yet? If so, then you have an understanding of the community that Micah and Jason come from.  Army Special Forces are a pretty unique group.  They infiltrate, they blend in, they become part of the environment, then accomplish the mission.  When they had reached a part of their careers where they were facing staff and instructor tours, they decided they liked the entrepreneurial spirit of being operators more. So, they got out.  They decided they liked beer and Southern Pines needed a craft brewery. Neither had brewing experience. Jason had business experience so he got tagged as CFO. That meant Micah had to learn to be a brewer.  An online course at Seibel, an onsite course at White Labs, and months of very long brew days in a garage, and they were ready to go live.  Southern Pines does doesn’t look like a military-themed brewery, but that’s because they’ve become part of the environment.

While we only showcased five veteran-owned breweries above, there are plenty more. Below is a compilation of the veteran-owned breweries that we know of, but please let us know if we’re missing any. Veterans are an entrepreneurial lot, and they like beer, and now you know where that leads.


14th Star Brewing St. Albans VT
1st Republic Brewing Burlington VT
2 Silos Brewing Manassas VA
3rd Rock Brewing Trenton NC
5×5 Brewing Mission TX
Aiken Brewing Company Aiken SC
Alameda Island Brewing Alameda CA
Backward Flag Brewing Forked River NJ
Barnett & Son Brewing Parker CO
Barrels & Bottles Brewery Golden CO
Bayou Teche Brewing Arnaudville LA
Bear Roots Brewing Vista CA
BearWaters Brewing Company Waynesville NC
Big Bend Brewing Alpine TX
Big Frog Brewing Chattanooga TN
Big Ugly Brewery Chesapeake VA
Blacksite Brewing San Antonio TX
Blue Spruce Brewing Centennial CO
Brass Brewing Company Colorado Springs CO
Bravery Brewing Company Lancaster CA
Brothers Craft Brewing Harrisonburg VA
Buffalo Mountain Brewing Floyd VA
Chain-O-Lakes Brewing McHenry IL
Collision Brewing Longmont CO
Decipher Brewing @decipherbrewing Charlottesville VA
Dog Tag Brewing BOZEMAN MT
Dragon Hops Brewing Purcellville VA
Eluvium Brewing Weaverville NC
Fainting Goat Brewing Fuquay Varina NC
Fair Winds Brewing Lorton VA
Freak’N Brewing Peoria AZ
Frog Level Brewing Waynesville NC
Frolic Brewing Westminster CO
Full Tilt Brewing Baltimore MD
Goat Patch Brewing Colorado Springs CO
Golden Coast Mead Oceanside CA
Greenbrier Valley Brewing Maxwelton WV
Growling Bear Brewing Woodbridge VA
Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing Melbourne FL
Heritage Brewing Manassas VA
Honor Brewing Company Chantilly VA
Iron Bird Brewing Colorado Springs CO
Jaks Brewing Company Falcon CO
JDub’s Brewing Sarasota FL
Launchpad Brewery Aurora CO
Left Hand Brewing Longmont CO
Loaded Question Brewing Portsmouth NH
Locavore Beer Works Littleton CO
NavVet Brewery Huntsville OH
Odd Otter Brewing Tacoma WA
Outer Range Brewing Frisco CO
Peak to Peak Tap and Brew Aurora CO
Pegasus City Brewery Dallas TX
Pikes Peak Brewing Monument CO
Protector Brewery San Diego CA
Railhouse Brewery Aberdeen NC
Reaver Beach Brewing Virgina Beach VA
Red Leg Brewing Colorado Springs CO
Rip Rap Brewing Norfolk VA
Riverwatch Brewery Augusta GA
RJ Rockers Brewing Spartanburg SC
Rocket Frog Brewing Sterling VA
Schubros Brewery San Ramon CA
Service Brewing Savannah GA
Slow Boat Brewery Beijing China
Smitty’s Brewing Bremerton WA
Southern Pines Brewing Southern Pines NC
Sparge Brewing Wellington CO
Spencer Devon Brewing Fredericksburg VA
Talisman Brewing Company Ogden UT
Tattered Flag Brewery Middletown PA
The Actual Brewing Company Columbus OH
The Bold Mariner Brewing Co. Norfolk VA
The Explorium Brewpub Greendale WI
Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery Chapel Hill NC
Toppling Goliath Brewing Decorah IA
Vagabond Brewing Salem OR
Vail Brewing Vail CO
Veteran Brothers Brewing Johnstown CO
Veterans United Craft Brewery Jacksonville FL
WAORGANY Brewing Evans Mills NY
Warfighter Brewing Culver City CA
Wicked Barley Brewing Saint Johns FL
Wild Blue Yonder Brewing Castle Rock CO
Young Veterans Brewing Virginia Beach VA
Zebulon Artisan Ales Weaverville NC

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  1. Mark Young

    Six Bears and a Goat, Stafford VA

  2. Riverwatch Brewery, Service Brewing, and Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse in Georgia.

  3. Ferment Drink Repeat. San Francisco, California.

  4. pamela burnham

    Brass Cannon Brewing in Williamsburg, VA

  5. Tracy Manners Jerry

    Biloxi Brewing Company in Biloxi, MS. Mark Cowley is retired USAF.

  6. Bearded Bird Brewing Also in Norfolk VA

  7. Is Joe the vet? Navy?

  8. Lori Sevin

    Southern Pines Brewery, nc. SF owned

    • You bet. One of the five covered in the article. Great dudes.

  9. Alan

    Keep an eye out fot Long Tab Brewing, sales in the making. Like Southern Pines, owner is a Green Beret.

  10. Due South Brewing
    Boynton Beach, FL

  11. Tim Giebink

    Also, Firestone Walker Brewing. Adam Firestone was USMC!

    • I had no idea! Not sure if it counts since Duvel owns Firestone Walker now, but now I’m going to dig deeper into Jarhead Wines!

  12. Ted Briggs

    Tun Tavern Brewery in Atlantic City NJ – Name licenced from the Marine Corps League. The owner is a Marine as is his brother. The former Brewmaster for 7 years was a marine to. (me)

  13. Bent Barley Brewing Company, Aurora, CO; 3 of the 4 owners are vets – two retired USAF. Other owner’s father and grandfather retired Navy.

  14. Inland Wharf Brewing in Murrieta California.
    Robert Durant retired Navy

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