Many of the salesmen I rode with while working on a Coors truck during my college years were Korean War vets, but the majority of the managers were World War II vets. Likewise, the sales manager at Schepps Distributing during my tenure was a bomber pilot during WWII. These vets were all professionals and very hard workers.
While VP of sales with Coors in San Antonio, the president of the company was a retired Air Force colonel (later promoted to brigadier general) and former astronaut, the 10th man on the moon. In addition, we had several employees in the sales department who were Vietnam vets. A couple of them came to Coors of Kansas to work with me. Two of these vets were able to land jobs at AB houses in key positions. Recently I had the opportunity to work with some returning vets from Desert Storm and Afghanistan.
Last summer I was invited to participate in a fund-raising event at a golf and ski resort in the UP of Michigan. The golf tournament helped raise money to enable the purchase of adapted ski sleds designed to give special needs children the ability to ski. While there I had the privilege of meeting a gentleman by the name of Paul Jenkins, a Naval Academy graduate and former Navy pilot.
After leaving the Navy, Paul decided to pursue a career enabling vets the ability to find meaningful work. He came upon the idea of starting a craft brewing company that employed only war veterans. After doing quite a bit of research he started The Veterans Beer Company. Along the way he received support from many industry people, including Pete Coors, who provided technical expertise on brewing and helped with some potential distributor interviews.
Veteran, headquartered in Chicago, currently brews two beers: The Veteran, an American lager, and The Blonde Bomber, a blond ale. Both beers are contract brewed by other veterans. All of Paul’s employees are vets. The beers are currently available in only two states: Illinois and Indiana. According to Paul, sales are ahead of plan and Veterans has received wide publicity, being featured in national news reporting including Fox News and The Today Show. 2014 will bring plans to expand the company.
Distributors and retailers are swamped with all the new beers that have hit the market during this craft implosion. Decisions must be made as to which breweries a distributor will represent and those decisions are made given a number of key considerations. Regardless of what those key components are, there needs to be a story behind the beer. As a distributor, I could not think of a better story to tell my customers, or offer a beer with a more compelling story than that of Veterans Beer.
Visit the Veterans Beer website, www.veteranbeercompany.com and take a look at the company. When Veterans comes to your market, do what you can to help them. Douglas MacArthur said “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” but the beer industry can, and should, do our part to keep our vets from fading away.