On Christmas Day 2012, Craig Gilbreath’s brother broke the news to 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 -- after running up the chain of command.
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 day of homebrewing. The result was 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.
For security reasons, the brewers don’t know exactly when they’ll be greeting the troops. The unit has to go through a re-entry processing before coming to North Texas.
That’s when 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.
“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.”