What started as a Valentine’s Day present four years ago has flourished into a thoughtfully – designed Savannah business, oozing with character and personality, and serving the greater good. In 2011, Meredith Sutton gave her boyfriend Kevin Ryan a home-brewing kit.
“The kit was really just a bunch of buckets and an 8 ½” by 11″ piece of paper with instructions,” chuckled Kevin. “And the instructions were basically a shopping list of another $300 worth of buckets and supplies to go out and buy,” Meredith reminded him. Ryan followed the directions and started making some small batch brews, and soon it occurred to him: wait, this beer isn’t that bad.
While Ryan’s first sip of beer may have been from his Grandfather’s Black Label tucked in the fridge, it was his first Fat Tire Ale consumed in 1995 that provoked his love for craft beer. But, perhaps his love for his country is even stronger.
When you step into Service Brewing Company, located in downtown Savannah, you’re immediately struck by the interior design elements that commemorate Kevin’s military career. Each piece of furniture inside the warehouse is the work of talented artists and veteran craftsmen, and each piece was carefully curated by Meredith, a 2003 SCAD graduate and notable artist.
The parachute that hangs in soft drapes on the wall across from the bar is an ode to infantry airmen. The back bar composed of two stacked containers mimics the container that Kevin and nine other soldiers called home while stationed in Iraq. The hand-crafted bar and chalkboard (where customers are encouraged to leave notes about how they serve their community) symbolizes a patchwork of history, pieced together with reclaimed wood.
Even Blackhawk and Chinook, the guard cats of the Brewery, are named to pay homage to military service. Rescued during the warehouse renovations, the two felines take their jobs seriously. They matched me step-for-step on my tour – stopping briefly for a little head-scratch attention and then quickly bounding ahead to show off the brew system.
After graduating from West Point in 1996, Kevin headed to Fort Benning, home of the infantry. There, he completed one year of ranger school and joined the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry in Alaska. He doubled-back to Fort Benning and then to Fort Carson, Colorado, before he was deployed to Iraq in 2003 where he commanded two companies of more than 700 people. In March 2004, “We brought everyone home. We were lucky. It was one of the best experiences of my career, and I didn’t know how I could top it.”
After returning stateside, Ryan left the Army for civilian life and found himself working next to his father, helping him to expand his business. Chief Information Officer for CareCore wasn’t the obvious path for a former army commander, but the job did provide the sound business experience that positioned Ryan to make his next move. That move was moved along through a series of coincidences that led Kevin to fellow West Point graduate and Army veteran Dan Sartin, a master brewer with some business ideas of his own. Together, the two crafted the idea for a brewery inspired by their own military service and to honor the service of others.
The two veterans joined forces with Meredith, whose Valentine’s gift had started it all, and they were off. With an eye on Savannah, they found a “really, really, gross warehouse,” and the rehabilitation of the building began. The 28,000-square-foot space is home to a 30-barrel brew system, which positions them, “to grow organically, as fast as we can, without outpacing ourselves,” says Kevin.
There is a reason for everything you see and taste at Service Brewing Company. And nothing is more noble than its commitment to donate a portion of their revenues to assist charities that support military service members. The brewery’s most recent project is in support of Home for Our Troops, an organization whose mission is to build specially-adapted, mortgage-free homes nationwide for the most severely injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Service Brewing Company also donated 96 cases of beer to the Army/Navy football game last fall, and raised more than $17,000 in “beer sales” at the tailgate party to support a home being built for a veteran in Marietta, Georgia.
With this dedication to honor those who have risked their lives while putting their country and community first, Service Brewing Company is a love story, really.
A labor of love.
About Homes for Our Troops
Home for Our Troops builds homes as a departure point for veterans to rebuild their lives, and once again become highly-productive members of society. Despite their life-altering injuries, many of veterans who benefited in Homes for Our Troops have embarked on new careers, completed their college degrees, or started families. Empowered by the freedom that a mortgage-free and specially-adapted home brings, these veterans can now focus on their recovery and return to their life’s work of serving others. Many have embraced their roles as motivational speakers, sharing with groups and classrooms around the country their messages of persevering through tragedy; others take to a national platform to promote awareness of veteran suicide, homelessness, and PTSD. Their incredible stories – far too numerous to include on one page – are the driving force for the work we do here at HFOT. Read more at www.hfotusa.org.
Four beer-drinking experts (whose expertise was specifically refined through higher education experiences at UNC Chapel Hill, WVU, and Xavier) set out to taste-test their way through the menu at Service Brewing Company. Here is what their sophisticated palates had to say:
R&D Smoked Sour with Raspberries • 4.5 ABV
It tastes like spring. Airy and light like Champagne bubbles.
Reminds me of Memphis BBQ.
Ground Pounder Pale Ale • 4.67 ABV
I can taste a little bit of spice on the tip of my tongue.
Ripe for pairing with food.
I don’t think I can’t drink a dozen of these.
I feel hoppy.
SBC Pale Ale brewed with Georgia Pecans and Dried Apricots • 5.1 ABV
Um, nutty. I could really taste the pecan.
Yup, nutty. (Did we mention these were experts?)
Put this on the Thanksgiving dinner table, and you’ve got a winner.
Compass Rose IPA • 6.0 ABV
Tastes like fall.
R&D Dunkelweizen German Wheat Dark Beer • 5.3 ABV
Looks like chocolate, but very light for such a dark beer.
It has a nice clean finish.
I could drink more of these.
Rally Point Pilsner • 4.6 ABV
Very clean and delicious.
Not plain – it has a real pop.
This would be killer for an afternoon on
Fill me up, buttercup!
R&D Wheat Wine • 7.7 ABV
Sweet and summery.
I am getting tripped up by the word “wine,” (and the 6 beers) so can I say rosé-esque?
This would be great paired with some sweet BBQ.
Lincoln’s Gift Oyster Stout brewed with
May River Oysters • 5.6 ABV
I’m getting a note of coffee, but it isn’t heavy, more like foamed milk.
Milk? No. I’m getting salty with a note
We should go home now.
Thursdays 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
574 Indian Street
Savannah. GA 31401