Former Army Capt. Kevin Ryan and his fiancée, Meredith Sutton, also wanted to start a brewing company that did more than just make beer.
The two came up with a business plan and mission statement that included giving back to the veteran community. With that plan, they attracted investors who also were interested in supporting charities for servicemembers or first responders.
Once they had the funding, the couple launched Service Brewing Co. in 2014. They had the help of 23 investors - 20 of whom had served in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps.
“I think I've always had a charitable mind-set,” says Ryan, a U.S. Military Academy grad who served as an infantry officer in Iraq. “When I was in Iraq, my unit would receive packages every day from people all over the country who had no idea who we were - it was just their way of showing support. … We try to do that here at the brewery as well.”
Over the years, Service Brewing Co. has not only brewed up beer for its tasting room - regulars include Ground Pounder Pale Ale, Rally Point Pilsner, and Scouts Out Honey Saison - but also donated more than $30,000 to charitable organizations. Those organizations include a group that matches veterans with service dogs,
the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program, and an organization helping troops who are transitioning out of the military.
Ryan also mentors other veterans who want to start their own businesses. He attends transition summits and works with the Veteran eMentor community, which links up servicemembers with people in their desired career fields.
Ryan's advice for servicemembers who are leaving the military: Get off base and meet people in your community. “You'll be surprised at how much people are willing to help,” he says.
Service Brewing Co. also encourages its patrons to express how they give back to their communities. There's a board in their tasting room that asks, “How do you serve?” Patrons are invited to sign the board and leave messages.
“You don't always think about how much your neighbors are doing for your community,” Ryan says. Someone might be a lawyer by day, he adds, but they also might volunteer to clean up a beach or help mentor young people.
Service Brewing's board got what Ryan calls its coolest addition in May 2016, when Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey signed it. Dailey, who was Ryan's former first sergeant, dropped by the brewery during a visit to nearby Fort Stewart. His message says, “Never, and I mean never, forget that I am a soldier, no better or worse than any other!”
“That pretty much sums up his attitude toward his leadership,” Ryan says.