Many aspects of the brewing community remind Casey Jones of his time in the military.
“It has more of a community feel than any other commercial industry I've been in before,” says Jones, a U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate who runs Fair Winds Brewing Co. “That's what draws people to the military - they love that culture, and you get that in brewing.”
When a local microbrewer's wife was sick with cancer, for example, Jones and the other nearby brewers collaborated on a drink in her honor. They all sold it in their taprooms and donated the proceeds to help cover the family's medical bills.
“When you're part of this community, people really rally around you,” Jones says. “You don't really find that in the classic retail space.”
Jones, who served as a Coast Guard officer aboard East and West Coast-based cutters for eight years, opened Fair Winds in 2015. Their brews have a Coastie vibe with seafaring names like Siren's Lure and Howling Gale IPA.
On any given night, Jones estimates 20 percent of the crowd at Fair Winds is veterans or active duty servicemembers from nearby Fort Belvoir. The brewery only will be successful if it connects with its community, Jones says, and for Fair Winds, that means honoring those who serve.
Every month, Fair Winds runs an event benefiting a military or veteran charity. Around Veterans Day, they also launch a “buy a vet a beer” program. Patrons can purchase an extra beer that, on Veterans Day, goes to someone who served.
Like Jenkins, Jones says military officers are well-suited for entrepreneurship. He still applies lessons he learned at the academy to his business.
“Every Friday, we clean down the brewery as if we're getting ready for a Saturday-morning inspection,” Jones says. “It has sort of become our ethos here - cleanliness matters above all else.”
Enforcing good practices means setting a good example as a leader. If the restrooms need to be cleaned, Jones grabs the mop to pitch in. And when the brew house hits 110 degrees in the summer, he's back there helping his staff.
“They don't want someone in their air-conditioned car driving by and waving,” he says.
Veterans also are tenacious and know how to adjust course amid ever-changing scenarios.
“Most of us have operated in an environment where failure is not an option,” Jones says. “You can't say, 'I had to crash the plane, the weather was just too rough.' In this current business environment, things change all the time, and veterans are used to finding solutions no matter what.