Salute to Service on Veterans Day

  Todd Baldwin, owner of Red Leg Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs.

Todd Baldwin, owner of Red Leg Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Craft Camaraderie: Veteran-Owned Breweries March Ahead

By Lisa Van Horne

Although the transition from military to civilian life can be challenging for veterans, some have used their skills learned in the military to launch successful breweries.

Several of the state’s veterans have turned their mission-focused mindsets to the craft beer industry. After a term of military service, a corporate cubicle can feel confining for driven veterans, such as Todd Baldwin, owner of Red Leg Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs.

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A former field artillery officer who transitioned out of the Army in 2009, Baldwin said his time at a desk job felt unfulfilling. Drawing from his military-fostered gumption, he and others created a successful entrepreneurial venture.

With a name that refers to the historical slang term for field artillery officers, Red Leg has continued to grow since opening in 2013. A few of the patriotic beers include the Devil Dog Stout and Blue Nose Brown.

According to Baldwin, veterans can be uniquely suited for leadership positions after their military careers. “Veterans can make phenomenal entrepreneurs,” he said. “We have a sense of what our goals are and how to get there.”

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The ability to plan and execute, as well as a disciplined set of management skills, led Kami Malanowski to open SKEYE Brewing Co. in Longmont. 

A Marine Corps veteran, Malanowski explains that she likewise had an easier time transitioning from the corporate world to the craft beer industry largely because of her military experience. She is the brewmaster at SKEYE.

For retired Army Ranger Justin Grant, one of the owners at Goat Patch Brewing in Colorado Springs, the “crawl, walk, run type of training” he learned in the military has served the brewery well. “Always be prepared and always have a contingency plan,” he added. 

The brewery opened earlier this year after more than two years of preparation. With his wife Jen and friends, Grant said the group was able to come up with a viable business plan for Goat Patch that set the course for success. “You have to have the right people in the right place,” he said.

Perhaps one of the most steadfast connections between the military and craft beer industry is the camaraderie among brewers and owners. After being contacted by several veterans looking for help getting their businesses off the ground, Baldwin headed up the creation of the Veterans Beer Alliance in 2015. 

A co-op in which members collectively purchase brewing supplies as a unit, the organization’s teamwork mentality allows smaller breweries to have the same buying power of larger shops. 

From bases to brewhouses and tactical teams to taprooms, Colorado’s veteran-owned breweries are an integral part of the craft beer culture and in strengthening the state’s veteran communities. 

 From Massachusetts to New York to Reno to San Diego to Boulder, Lisa Van Horne is a writer who has found a home on Colorado’s Front Range.