Vet­er­ans tap into craft brew­ing in­dus­try, D.C. Beer Fes­ti­val

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - By HAN­NAH TROYER [email protected]­i­

The DMV has one of the best lo­cal craft brew­ery scenes in the coun­try – and thanks to the an­nual D.C. Beer Fes­ti­val — those liv­ing in the area were able to sam­ple beers from over 80 dif­fer­ent lo­cal craft brew­eries.

Two craft brew­eries – Her­itage Brew­ing Com­pany and Fair Winds Brew­ing Com­pany – were able to show­case their beers at the April 16 fes­ti­val, too. But, a mil­i­tary con­nec­tion sep­a­rates these two busi­nesses from the rest. They are vet­eran-owned.

The two Vir­ginia-based brew­eries, with Fair Winds in Lor­ton and Her­itage in Manas­sas, aren’t the only vet­eran-owned craft brew­eries in the area. In fact, with the con­tin­ued growth of the craft beer in­dus­try, more vet­er­ans are join­ing the trend. Full Tilt Brew­ing Com­pany in Bal­ti­more and Young Vet­er­ans Brew­ing Com­pany in Vir­ginia Beach are find­ing great suc­cess as well.

Fair Winds founder and 12-year Coast Guard vet­eran, Casey Jones, said the in­flux of vet­er­ans into the in­dus­try has to do with the par­al­lels be­tween the two pro­fes­sions.

“To some de­gree, I think it’s the work style. In brew­ing, you’re do­ing something dif­fer­ent ev­ery day, and peo­ple who have spent time in the mil­i­tary, they joined for the same rea­son,” Jones said. “They don’t want to ride a desk and they wanted ad­ven­ture. Vet­er­ans are also in­ter­ested in a mis­sion-based or­ga­ni­za­tion – do­ing something more than just striv­ing for profit. You re­ally get that in craft brew­ing and that draws a lot of vets in.”

But, ac­cord­ing to Casey, it also has a lot to do with a gen­uine in­ter­est in the prod­uct.

“Let’s face it, an­other thing in the mil­i­tary is we tend to en­joy a bev­er­age or two. We have a lot of power con­sumers,” Jones said. “And where you have a lot of power con­sumers, you tend to have folks who want to work there and get closer to the prod­uct. The peo­ple want to make it in­stead of just en­joy it.”

Such was the case for Her­itage Brew­ing Com­pany ‘s D.C. and Vir­ginia Sales Ex­ec­u­tive, John Lee. Lee, a five-year Army in­fantry vet­eran, joined the three-yearold com­pany a lit­tle over a year ago after vis­it­ing the brew­ery a few times.

The brew­ery was co-founded by Ma­rine vet­eran, Sean Ar­royo, and his brother, Ryan, who is also a vet­eran.

“I was re­ally in­spired by (its) mis­sion and I asked if I could come on board. (Work­ing here) has been fan­tas­tic. I think a large part about what I miss about the mil­i­tary is a sense of com­mu­nity,” Lee said. “Work­ing with such a strong vet­eran pres­ence at Her­itage and work­ing with bosses who un­der­stand what (the mil­i­tary) is like be­cause they were there has been re­ally amaz­ing.”

Fair Winds Brew­ing Com­pany has been a dream for Casey since the mid-1980s when he cre­ated a busi­ness plan for his one-day busi­ness. But, it wasn’t un­til 2013 when Casey fi­nally got the busi­ness off the ground. Since then, the brew­ery has grown to be a 13,000 square-foot fa­cil­ity home to a 30-bar­rel sys­tem for mak­ing beer. A 2,000 square­foot tap­room is also on site.

This was Fair Winds first show­case at the D.C. Beer Fes­ti­val now that the com­pany has ex­panded its dis­tri­bu­tion to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. The fes­ti­val, which drew thou­sands of craft beer en­thu­si­asts, was a “hugely valu­able op­por­tu­nity” to the growing, young com­pany be­cause of the large, usu­ally knowl­edge­able, pop­u­la­tion it reaches.

At­ten­dees were able to sam­ple two of the com­pany’s most pop­u­lar beers – the Quay­side Kolsch, a light-bod­ied, Ger­man-style golden ale, and Siren’s Lure, a farm­house ale and a 2015 Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val Gold Medal win­ner.

With 84 dif­fer­ent brew­eries sta­tioned around Na­tion­als Park, both Her­itage Brew­ing Com­pany and Fair Winds Brew­ing Com­pany gained price­less ex­po­sure.

“Beer fes­ti­val sea­son is ob­vi­ously the most im­por­tant in the cal­en­dar for us be­cause it’s the only time where we can hit hun­dreds or thou­sands of peo­ple by only send­ing out two to four folks,” Jones said. “To reach the same num­ber of peo­ple by sam­pling bar after bar after bar would take us months on end to do.”

“I can’t em­pha­size the im­por­tance of fes­ti­vals in gen­eral, and the D.C. Beer Fes­ti­val is just huge. There is pretty much noth­ing in the lo­cal area that does the num­bers that it does in a con­cen­trated pe­riod of time. So it was just huge for us.”

Lee, and the other mem­bers of the Her­itage Brew­ing Com­pany team, en­joyed in­ter­act­ing with the crowd, too. At­ten­dees were able to sam­ple the com­pany’s two most pop­u­lar beers – an IPA In­dia pale ale called Free­dom Isn’t Free and a honey gin­ger wheat ale called Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion.

Lee said the two are per­sonal fa­vorites as well, but said he tends to drink “what­ever he is in the mood for.” Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tion is his “ad­ven­ture beer” while Free­dom Isn’t Free is his go-to IPA, es­pe­cially if he’s en­joy­ing a burger, too.

“I love this city and I love all the peo­ple in it. I re­ally like get­ting time to spend with the peo­ple in D.C. and show them what our beers are about while get­ting to talk to peo­ple and meet new peo­ple,” Lee said. “I also re­ally like get­ting to spend time with a lot of these other great brew­eries. It’s a great show­case of lo­cal tal­ent.”

While both brew­eries may tech­ni­cally be in com­pe­ti­tion with one an­other, the com­pa­nies con­tinue to grow their beer se­lec­tions and fan base – es­pe­cially among the mil­i­tary com­mu­nity and the mil­i­tary bases where their beers are sold. One thing both Casey and Lee agree upon is vet­er­ans are tap­ping into the un­tapped pos­si­bil­i­ties of the craft brew­ing in­dus­try and find­ing a new com­mu­nity.

“In the vet­eran com­mu­nity we have a lot of re­ally great val­ues that have been in­stilled in us by our mil­i­tary ser­vice like work ethic and a very strong sense of com­mu­nity and to­geth­er­ness. That trans­fers re­ally well to the brew­ing world be­cause it’s a bunch of pas­sion­ate peo­ple do­ing something they re­ally care about,” Lee said. “I think that is why vet­eran brew­eries are re­ally tak­ing off be­cause the vet­eran com­mu­nity is such a great re­source for amaz­ing tal­ent. When you dip into that pool, you come away with some re­ally amaz­ing things.”

Fair Winds Brew­ing Com­pany em­ploy­ees serve beer to at­ten­dees of D.C. Beer Fes­ti­val April 16.


John Lee, a five-year Army vet­eran and Vir­ginia and D.C. sales ex­ec­u­tive for Her­itage Brew­ing Com­pany, serves a D.C. Beer Fes­ti­val at­tendee a sam­ple of one of the com­pany’s beers.

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