On Christmas Day 2012, Craig Gilbreath’s brother broke the news that his family that he was about to be deployed to Afghanistan -- his third Army deployment. Gilbreath wanted to do something unique to honor his service. A longtime homebrewer, Gilbreath hit on an idea that involves beer.
Thus was born Homebrew for Heroes, an organization that Gilbreath started in 2013. Gilbreath, a member of Fort Worth homebrew club The Cap and Hare, asked some of his fellow brewers to make homemade craft beers to present to the troops in variety 12-packs when they come back to the United States. The brewers’ response was enthusiastic.
“Those guys were just jumping to help,” Gilbreath says. “Some of them are actually former military themselves. ... One of the guys actually knows my brother from being in the Army, so it’s kind of a small world.”
The Army also approved the idea -- and Gilbreath says he didn’t encounter as much red tape as some people might expect.
“I chatted with my brother about this time last year, and he talked to his commander ... and his commander was all on board,” Gilbreath says. “It was just a matter of chain of command. The commander had to his higher chain of command, and once everything got OK’d, the JAG lawyers had to look at everything, and they said ‘Yes, we give you a hundred percent clearance to do this if you follow these four or five guidelines’.”
The brewers got help from Fritz Rahr of Rahr & Sons Brewing in Fort Worth, and from Brenden Stubblefield of Texas Brewing. The two brewers donated ingredients for one homebrew day that resulted in 100 gallons of American pale ale. At this writing, about 960 bottles have been packaged and labeled, not just of the pale ale but of several brews.
The time frame is tricky; for security reasons, the brewers originally had only a loose ballpark date for presenting the beers to the troops, and even now, they don’t exactly know when they’ll be greeting the troops. The unit has to go through Fort Hood for processing, and is expected to then come to the Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Center somtime late in the week.
That’s where Homebrew for Heroes will present the beer in an informal greeting that’s not open to the public, but is to family and friends.
“This is not the big fancy formation that they’re going to have after their arrival home,” Gilbreath says. “That’s where we originally had intended to distribute the beer. We were going to have three or four weeks’ notice after they actually got home, but that’s one of the things the military changed on us. Through the approval process, they said, ‘Well, let’s just go ahead and give it to the guys when they get home.’ ”
Gilbreath says that he and the Homebrew for Heroes board hope to get homebrewers in other cities to do similar presentations for returning troops. They’ll also provide suggestions on what to do -- and what not to do, such as not waiting too long to get started.
“We thought we had a certain time frame in mind, but with the military, they change things a lot of times, I think,” Gilbreath says. “We’re guys who more or less go with the flow. But this taught us to be prepared earlier than you need to.”
Planning this has been a little tricky; for security reasons, the brewers can’t know exactly when the troops are returning, but Gilbreath knows that it will be soon. They’ll have some notice after the troops come back through Fort Hood for processing, and then Gilbreath and his fellow brewers plan to give them the brews at a facility in Grand Prairie -- which Gilbreath can’t name yet.
Gilbreath says that he and the Homebrew for Heroes board hope to get homebrewers in other cities to do similar presentations for returning troops. They’ll also
It is our plan to branch this out to other cities; to have local brew clubs adopt a unit local to them and we already have interest from several states coast-to-coast.
Furthermore, we recently completed a successful Booster.com campaign where we raised a modest capital to purchase bottle caps, labels, etc.
You can reach me at this email address: Craig@homebrew4heroes.org or my cell phone, 940-353-7300
You can also reach another leadership member of HB4H, Shawn Mason at Shawn@homebrew4Heroes.org
Other members in leadership positions are Houston Fullerton and Brian Schoolcraft, with legal Council being offered by Robert Blankenship.