Originally published June 29, 2021

The Fourth of July means fireworks, barbecues, and an opportunity to celebrate our country and freedom. It’s also a time to remember the sacrifices of those who have served to protect it. This month, honor those who’ve served by sipping a beer at one of these 7 Veteran-owned breweries.

1. 5×5 Brewing Co., Texas

5×5 Brewing Co. (pronounced Five by Five) is a Veteran-owned and operated craft brewery based in Mission, Texas. George Rice (U.S. Army) and Sean Downey (U.S. Marine Corps) used their love for beer and their love for their brothers in arms to create a military themed brewery, first starting with the name 5×5 — a term used by radio operators to describe when signal and clarity was at its best.

Their top 5 beers according to Untappd are:

  1. Latte Le Ralph Stout (rated 4.18)
  2. Pineapple Mango Seltzer (rated 4.11)
  3. F U RONA IPA (rated 4.04)
  4. El Mondough Stout (rated 4.01)
  5. Black Is Beautiful — Buffalo Soldier Edition Stout (rated 4)

5×5 Brewing Co. doesn’t just brew delicious beers. The company also has a Veteran preference hiring policy and, most recently, they announced a Brewing Apprenticeship Program with South Texas College and with a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission, the first of its kind in the U.S.

2. Backward Flag Brewing Co., New Jersey

Founded in 2015, Backward Flag Brewing is a woman- and Veteran-owned micro-brewery in Forked River, New Jersey. Stop in for a tour of the brewery, try the various brews on tap, or just buy a pint and sit and enjoy the unique environment.

Their top 5 beers according to Untappd are:

  1. Bourbon Barrel Aged Chocolate Stout (rated 4.3)
  2. Wet Hop Pale Ale Cask (rated 4.25)
  3. Boot Blouser Pale Ale (rated 4.23)
  4. Night at the Mango Cream Ale (rated 4.22)
  5. Above Standard-PCS IPA (rated 4.14)

You can also order select Backward Flag beer online through Drizly!

Backward Flag’s Founder and CEO, Staff Sergeant Torie Fisher, is the very first woman Veteran to own and operate a brewery in the U.S., but she didn’t stop there. Fisher also founded Arms 2 Artisans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping post-9/11 Veterans learn artisanal trades as they transition into civilian life.

3. 14th Star Brewing Co., Vermont

St. Albans, Vermont-based production brewery, 14th Star Brewing Company, is an award-winning craft brewery that quite literally started on the battlefields of Afghanistan, where homebrewers, best friends, and brothers in arms, Steve Gagner and Matt Kehaya originally drafted the business plan on the back of a notebook.

Five cans of 14th Star beer lined up

Credit: 14th Star Brewing Company

Their most popular beers according to Untappd are:

  1. Tribute IPA (rated 4.03)
  2. Maple Breakfast Stout (rated 3.75)
  3. B-72 IPA (rated 3.98)
  4. Valor Ale (rated 3.63)
  5. Follow Me IPA (rated 3.65)

As a Veteran-owned brewery, 14th Star Brewing Co. is always looking for ways to honor and support Veterans through their brews. In fact, their annual release of “11 Bravo” elevates awareness for The Josh Pallotta Fund and its mission to aid Veterans and Service Members suffering from the effects of PTSD through Josh’s House VT wellness and recreational center.

4. Ono Brewing Company, Virginia

Ono Brewing Company is a tropical-themed, family-owned and -operated brewery in Chantilly, VA. Now, you may be wondering how a brewery in Virginia ended up with Hawaiian and tropical decor. Well, the husband and wife team, Scott and Cyndi Hoffman, learned all about Hawaiian culture and traditions from Cyndi’s extended family while Scott served in the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks.

Outside Patio at Ono Brewing Company

Credit: Ono Brewing Company

Then, after spending nearly twenty years together in the tropical locations of Hawaii and Florida, Scott and Cyndi moved to Northern Virginia in 2011. They missed the laid-back atmosphere of Hawaii where everyone is on “Island time” and the wardrobe of Florida where flip-flops are worn year-round. They wanted to bring that relaxing vibe to Northern Virginia, and they did it through Ono Brewing Company.

Their top 5 beers according to Untappd are:

  1. Hurricane Jeanne IPA (rated 3.8)
  2. Cause for Paws Hazy IPA (rated 3.8)
  3. Alani American Pale Ale (rated 3.78)
  4. Island Time Coconut Brown Ale (rated 3.72)
  5. Howzit IPA (rated 3.72)

Ono Brewing Company’s stand-out feature is a self-serve beer wall which is like a self-serve frozen yogurt bar, but with craft beer and hard seltzer instead! But, the best part is that Ono Brewing Company is a generous supporter of local non-profit organizations including Paws of Honor, NOVA Veterans Association, Willing Warriors, and so many more. Since 2017, they’ve donated more than $74,000 to more than 20 local nonprofit organizations!

5. Railhouse Brewery, North Carolina

Founded by Brian Evitts of the U.S Navy and Mike Ratkowski of the U.S Army, Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen, North Carolina is proudly Veteran-owned by three branches of the Armed Forces: U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and Air National Guard.

Staffed by nearly 100 percent military-affiliated employees, Railhouse regularly hosts events for and donates to military nonprofits. But, their stand-out feature is a wall of remembrance inside the taproom, where customers can submit names and plaques to commemorate fallen soldiers.

Their top 5 beers according to Untappd are:

  1. Capones Private Reserve Stout (rated 4.36)
  2. Jumpmaster IPA (rated 4.2)
  3. Pumpkin Patch Latte Stout (rated 4.2)
  4. Tyrant Stout (rated 4.17)
  5. The Big Juice IPA (rated 4.15)

The brewery’s proximity to Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg) is a big draw for the local active-duty military and Veteran communities and their “Beer Forward Wall” is a big hit with regulars. On it, customers can purchase beers in advance and then leave a sticky note, such as “Vietnam Vet” for former military members to cash in for a free beer.

6. Red Leg Brewing Company, Colorado

With a name inspired by Civil War artillery soldiers’ pants, Red Leg Brewing Company is a Veteran-owned production brewery in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they honor the men and women who currently and formerly served in the U.S. Military through high quality craft beer.

Taproom at Red Leg Brewing Company in Colorado Springs

Credit: Red Leg Brewing Company

Their top 5 beers according to Untappd are:

  1. BA Mr. Willow Harvest Ale (rated 4.18)
  2. Space Force One Double Hazy IPA (rated 4.08)
  3. Disturbing Tan Lines (rated 3.98)
  4. Hazy IPA (rated 3.91)
  5. Hoppin’ on Sunshine Grapefruit IPA (rated 3.86)

Red Leg has been making waves in Colorado Springs. So much so, that a second Red Leg location with an outdoor food hall and live entertainment venue is in the works at Garden of the Gods and 30th Street. Be sure to follow Red Leg Brewing Company on Instagram to get updates!

7. At Ease Brewing Company, California

Founded by retired Army Colonel Mike Conrad in 2019 in Sacramento, California, At Ease Brewing Company brews some of the finest quality beers in northern California. For over a year, Conrad worked on converting 2,000 square feet of indoor space that was a property management office into a functioning brewery and taproom with two restrooms and indoor and outdoor seating.

Credit: At Ease Brewing Company

Their “Now In Service” wall (pictured above) showcases the variety of brews on tap, and the building’s military-green exterior and helmeted hop stickers are a clear nod to those who serve, as are beer names like Army Brat Brut IPA, Basic Training Pumpkin Spice Ale and Brigadier Summer Wheat Beer.

If you happen to drop by around Veterans Day, you may be able to score a taste of their special “Veterans blend” IPA that they lovingly call DD-214.

For these 7 breweries and their founders, there’s an undeniable connection that extends beyond the love of great beer. It’s a love for their nation, their community, and their brothers and sisters in arms.

Have you visited one of the Veteran-owned breweries on our list? Or, if your favorite Veteran-owned brewery wasn’t mentioned, give them a shout-out in the comments below!

Other Ways to Support the Military, Veteran, and MilSpouse Communities:

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