Minnesota veteran-owned brewery uses proceeds to support veterans, first responders
The brewers use proceeds of their sales to benefit veterans and first responders.
DULUTH — The newest addition to the Lincoln Park neighborhood's Craft District came on Saturday, Sept. 24, when Warrior Brewing Company opened its taproom. The veteran-owned business has been brewing beer since May 2021 in the former Lake Superior Brewing Company location after Seth and Sarah Maxim relocated their new brewpub to the Lakeside neighborhood .
Warrior Brewing Company taproom joins the cluster of breweries and cideries available within walking distance, including Ursa Minor Brewing , Duluth Cider , Wild State Cider , Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and Duluth Tap Exchange .
"From open to close, there were plenty of people in. A lot of people have been waiting for us to open," said co-founder and head brewer Ben Gipson.
While helping the Maxims move their brewpub to its new location, Gipson first learned that the turn-key warehouse brewery at 2711 W. Superior St. was available. Gipson and Matt Caple, Warrior Brewing Company's co-founder and director of operations, took over the space. They began building Warrior Brewing Company during the midst of the pandemic in late 2020.
"The brew house was already installed. Everything else we brought in. We're still using the same brew kettle that Lake Superior Brewing Company used for two decades," Gipson said.
Over the past year, Warrior Brewing Company has been offering off-sale beer in cans and bottles at over 50 locations across the state, in addition to its self-sustaining brewery, which enabled the long-awaited opening of its taproom.
Gipson and Matt can be found there pouring the beer. Three year-round offerings are currently available on- and off-sale, including the Valkyrie Golden Honey Ale, Patriot American IPA and the Barbarian Imperial Stout, plus seasonal cans of Valkyrie Pumpkin Ale.
Off-sale hours are Monday to Saturday from 12-8 p.m. The taproom is open Monday to Thursday from 5-8 p.m.; and Friday to Saturday from 12-8 p.m.
Currently, Warrior Brewing Company employs an assistant brewer, and will be looking to bring on more staff with the established taproom. There is seating for about 20 patrons within the 2,000-square-foot floor space. Another third of the warehouse is expected to open for possible expansion of the taproom this winter, Gipson said.
Setting Warrior Brewing Company apart from the rest is its mission to help sustain various veteran's organizations through brewing beer, said Gipson.
Inspired by the the practice of Trappists monks' practice of brewing a specific amount of beer in their monasteries to raise funds for the church, Warrior Brewing Company follows a similar model.
"Instead of supporting the church, we are supporting veterans and first responders," Gipson said.
Gipson first began homebrewing a decade ago while stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, California. After serving as a heavy equipment operator in the Air Force, he went on to become an award-winning head brewer at Canal Park Brewing Company for three years.
In 2019, Gipson met Caple, who is also the co-founder and captain of Lake Superior Warriors hockey team, during a collaborative brew day with Canal Park Brewing.
Lake Superior Warriors is a non-profit organization with a primary purpose to help disabled veterans reintegrate into society following their military service by way of community service and hockey. The program engages in volunteer and outreach events to build connections between members and communities. All veterans are eligible to join, however only qualified disabled veterans may participate in certain events and tournaments organized under USA Disabled Hockey.
Both being disabled veterans, Gipson and Caple found another shared commonality —a passion for brewing beer. Caple served as a satellite communication operator in the Army, and learned to home brew while stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Upon his return to Duluth, he joined the Northern Ale Stars to further refine his craft.
"It was the first spark of what we created," Gipson said. "Matt knows everyone with a military connection here, and I wanted to teach people the craft. I really like being able to create something and share that with people. It was the missing piece."
A dream realized, Warrior Brewing Company works to fulfill its mission in three ways: education, exposure and fundraising.
Each month, a group of two to six veterans or first responders are given an opportunity for a hands-on brewing experience to expose them to the craft. They tour the brewing facility, as well as partake in the beer-making process by milling and adding hops.
Brew days are alcohol-free in order to focus on learning the craft and creating networks between different veteran organizations, Gipson explained.
"We are well aware that there are plenty of veterans who do struggle with alcohol. That's why we provide an alcohol-free environment as way to be involved, socialize and bond," Gipson said.
Warrior Brewing Company also utilizes the labels of its "Patriot Series" to boost exposure to various veteran organizations. Currently featured on its Patriot IPA beer cans is the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center ; next will be Forgotten Heroes Ranges and Retreat .
"Our goal is that someone will pick up a beer and learn about that organization. We are creating the branch of a tree to help outreach more veteran resources," Gipson said.
Next spring, Warrior Brewing Company will partner with Strong Compass , a non-profit organization focusing on helping veterans find therapeutic ways to navigate civilian life through equine therapy, mixed martial arts and outdoor recreation. Strong Compass will be harvesting honey, which the brewery will then purchase to create its Valkyrie Golden Honey Ale.
The brewery takes it a step further through fundraising efforts. Members of veteran and first responder organizations are invited to assist with brewing, hand bottling and wax dipping beer. In return, Warrior Brewing Company donates 50% of these limited-edition, small-batch collaboration brews to the participating organization.
"We have two fundraising beers out currently, including the Ace of Aces edition of our Patriot Series. These are cool collection opportunities. We often refer to them as our seller pieces because some veteran families buy it to shelve it. These are typically a higher alcohol content beer; more of a sipper for special occasions and gatherings," Gipson said.
Military and first responders receive 25% off their purchases, with the exception of the collaboration fundraising bottles.
Eventually, Gipson hopes to provide a brochure of veteran resources at the brewery, and form veteran cribbage and dart leagues.
He said, "With the care and thought that went into every bottle and can, each has a story behind it. It's coming full-circle with all the resources and people reaching out to want to build this together."