Beer scene in Fayetteville marked by military influence
Take a trip around Fayetteville, North Carolina and you’ll discover the very heavy military influence in the area thanks in part to the largest military installation in the world – Fort Bragg. It’s also home to a handful of breweries, many of them owned by veterans or retired service members. And it’s not surprising to see in many of these breweries spouses and family members are seen working there as well. Additionally, some of the establishments offer special beers that honor and recognize service members.
Let’s take a look at some of the breweries in the area. Plan a day trip and visit some of these North Carolina breweries.
DIRTBAG ALES – 3626 Legion Road, Hope Mills, NC
Army medic Vernardo “Tito” Simmons-Valenzuela was on a night shift at a military hospital when he made the promise of “free beer for life” in exchange for a home brew kit. It was then that Tito along with Eric Whealton, a nurse working on the same shift, paved the path towards opening a brewery.
With impending expansion to a new 8,000-sq. foot destination brewery in Hope Mills, Dirtbag Ales expanded and added staff. Hope Demetris recently became a brewer at Dirtbag Ales and is the only female brewer in Cumberland county.
Huske Hardware House – 405 Hay St., Fayetteville, NC
Huske Hardware opened back in 1997 as a 100 percent-owned veteran brewery in the hart of downtown Fayetteville. With all its beer brewed on site and with a 15-barrel brewing system in the center of the restaurant, it's a place to have a drink with your meal.
Mash House Brewing Co. – 4150 Sycamore Dairy Rd., Fayetteville
While Mash House is not veteran-owned or managed, former military, spouses and family members are on staff throughout the company. The Mash House has always been proud supporters of military-related nonprofits and offer discounts to all service members on Sundays.
One of the brewery’s flagship beers, the Patriot Pale Ale, is “near and dear to our heart as many service members call Fayetteville home,” says Steve Grovender, General Manager.
Bright Light Brewing Co. – 444 W. Russell St., Fayetteville
Bright Light Brewing Company is owned by Mike Ray, Eddie Ketchum and Chris Greive. Ketchum and Greive served in the U.S. Army together and met Ray through the local brewery scene. Bright Light Brewing Company was an idea between these three friends, who eventually pooled their money together and made the dream a reality.
Part of the dream was to have a space in the community that would encourage people from all walks of life to feel welcome. This dream came to fruition with a large dog- and kid-friendly brewery, with a large patio space and a rotating line-up of local favorite food trucks. The brewery features five to seven of their own brews available, as well as a list of rotating beers. Bright Light features beers such as its The Brown Irishman, Mike’s Banana Hamik, S’More For Me and Honey Rye Dontcha.
Lake Gaston Brewing Co. – 124 Hay St., Fayetteville
Troy Rassmussen, a retired Green Beret, first started brewing in 2004 when he received a “Mr. Beer” brewing kit. Unbeknownst to him, a fellow veteran was seeking to start a craft beer company. Darrin Jones, a veteran paratrooper of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, had a vision to bring craft brew, and with it some Lake Gaston nostalgia, to the home of the Army’s largest installation. In early 2015, the fates of the two became intertwined. Darrin had the location in downtown Fayetteville, but needed a brewer. A variety of beers are on tap at any given time, including the All American Strong Ale and the Lafayette Kolsch, which pays homage to Fayetteville’s namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette.