Grateful. Thankful. Blessed. These three words adorn the walls and throw pillows of homes across the Midwest on a normal day, but the winter holidays cause many of us to slow down and reflect a little more. November is not only the host and home of an American holiday dedicated to giving thanks, it also harbors Veterans Day.
Not to be confused with May’s Memorial Day, which is dedicated to honor the service members who have lost their lives in service to our nation, Veterans Day is a day dedicated to honoring all veterans who have served. The history of Veterans Day hearkens back to November 11, 1919, the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I. It has been an official holiday since 1938, and in 1954 President Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. Celebrating more than the end of a conflict, Veterans Day invites Americans to give recognition to and share appreciation for the more than 19 million men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
I have had the opportunity to sit with men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses, and have seen the marks their service has left behind. Some are left with physical scars, and most are left with mental ones—the loss of friends, the visual devastation of a once beautiful land, the feelings of inadequacy because your service didn’t lead to lifelong trauma, and feeling a little guilty that you walked away scot-free.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Caple, co-founder of Warrior Brewing Company in Duluth, and hear his story of how Warrior Brewing is living and breathing life into the veteran and nonprofit community in the region. As we sat in the empty taproom one afternoon, Caple, a U.S. Army veteran, said “I knew when I got out of the army, my service wasn’t done.”
Before Warrior Brewing, Caple founded the Lake Superior Warriors, a nonprofit organization with the mission of helping disabled military veterans find healing and camaraderie through hockey, and in 2019 he was looking to combine his passions: the Lake Superior Warriors and brewing beer. That’s when he met Ben Gipson.
Warrior Brewing co-founder Gipson (U.S. Air Force) shared not only military service, but a passion for brewing beer. They each had more than 10 years of home-brewing experience, so when Caple pitched a specialty beer to raise money and awareness for the Lake Superior Warriors, Gipson was in. Together they brewed a Triple IPA whose profits benefitted the Lake Superior Warriors. The fundraiser was a skating success, and so was 2020’s Imperial Stout fundraiser. Later that year, Warrior Brewing was born.
Warrior Brewing Company not only provides a place of employment and a gathering space for the community, it directly serves local veteran and nonprofit organizations. Just as the Lake Superior Warriors seek to create camaraderie through hockey, Warrior Brewing Company creates camaraderie, shared experiences, and fundraising… through brewing beer.
Once a month or so, a veteran group is invited to the brewery to help the Warrior Brewing crew and each group brews their own batch of beer. Vets are taught the basic process of brewing on a commercial scale, and are invited to aid in the process of beginning fermentation. In a month, the group returns to bottle their beer. Each group is given a custom label to display on their bottles, and Warrior Brewing writes them a check for half of the anticipated revenue of their complete beer.
Warrior Brewing has worked primarily with veteran groups so far, but Caple said they hope to branch out and get involved in other local nonprofits. Recently, Warrior Brewing Company sponsored a fundraising event with the Duluth Curling Club to benefit Gilda’s Club, a cancer support group based out of the Twin Cities.
In addition to being kind and charitable, Warrior Brewing Company brews a darn good beer. Their Barbarian Imperial Stout won the silver medal in the Great American Beer Festival’s Imperial Stout category in 2021, and they offer a variety of beers, including Golden Ale, IPA, Lager, and Stout. Their on-tap beers are all served out of a converted shipping container in the taproom, and you can find cans of Warrior Brewing beer distributed to liquor stores around the region.
Warrior Brewing boasts a large indoor taproom, often hosting live music and community events and fundraisers, like for the renovation of the Duluth Armory and a Cruise for Cancer event. They have an expansive outdoor space as well, with lawn games and plenty of space to find a quiet corner or to gather with friends. Conveniently located in the Lincoln Park district, there are a variety of food delivery options, and you may even find a food truck parked outside. And if you want to try a flight of beer, Warrior Brewing might have the most unique delivery system I’ve seen. You’ll have to stop in to check it out and see if you agree.
Warrior Brewing Company knows what they’re good at, and they have found a way to integrate passion with service, and for that, I’m grateful, I’m thankful, and our community is blessed.
In this November Thankfulness Issue, let me say thank you. Thank you to the husbands and wives who have kept the home fires burning during deployments, drill weekends, TDYs, shouldering the weight of life that doesn’t stop moving even when you’re alone. Thank you to the children who have grown up without a parent, had a changed parent returned to them, or have worried about their loved one’s safety in the middle of a math test. And thank you to the veterans who have had experiences that the rest of us can never understand. Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, your time, and your protection. Happy Veterans Day.