When Parke Patterson and his family decided to become entrepreneurs, they knew they wanted their company to have a greater purpose — that it would exist in large part to benefit others. And they knew the specific group they wanted to help, too. Now, the Georgetown-brewed Vet Beer plans to to launch in cities along the Interstate 35 corridor, with a portion of proceeds going toward veteran-focused organizations.
The Vet Beer Co. brand also intends to help active military, first responders and their families with the donations to carefully vetted nonprofits. A flavorful American lager in 12 oz. cans is the first beer in the Vet Beer portfolio, although the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the spring debut the Patterson family had planned.
"This is a tough time to bring a new product out because it's hard to do the marketing behind it," Patterson said distributors and liquor store owners told his family. "If people don't know about it, it'll just be sitting there on the shelf."
But the beer does exist already. Vet Beer Co. has set up a contract brewing arrangement with Georgetown’s Rentsch Brewery, which had offered the can on its beer-to-go menu until it recently ran out. The Rentsch brewing team is in the process of making more, Patterson said, and will have it available again in a couple weeks to take from the taproom. That’s an early sign that people like both the beer and the mission behind it — written out plainly on the front of the red, white and blue can.
Helping out veterans and active-duty military personnel was a no-brainer, Patterson said, because of his father. After time in the U.S. Army, the retired Lt. Col. Gary Patterson taught high school ROTC and, in all, "was involved in the military for about 40 years." Now, Gary Patterson is an owner of the Vet Beer Co. business, handling much of the day-to-day operations, while Parke Patterson and his brother, Derek, are investors and operators.
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They are spread out among the region where Vet Beer will one day be sold. The Patterson parents live in San Antonio. Parke Patterson and his wife, a banker who helps with the financial side of the business, live in Sugar Land. And his brother and wife live in Lakeway.
Once distributors think it’s possible for a new product like Vet Beer to launch effectively, the cans will be available for purchase "all up and down the I-35 corridor, from Killeen to San Antonio," Parke Patterson said. "That's a very heavily populated area with veterans and retirees and, of course, active duty as well, especially Fort Hood (near Killeen) and San Antonio. Eventually, we want to branch out to Dallas and Houston."
So far, the family has found three organizations that proceeds from Vet Beer will be donated to — Heroes Sports, Soldiers’ Angels and Meals for Vets. Each one was researched beforehand to make sure all donated money would be well spent. Patterson said the family looks at each prospective nonprofit’s mission statement, what sort of services they are providing to veterans, whether they have a board of directors and how much of their budgets go toward operations versus to the people they’re helping.
If too much of a percentage of the organization’s money is used for things like building upkeep, the Pattersons are hesitant to form a partnership. The goal is that a "high amount of dollars go to veterans."
"The only sales of Vet Beer are from the brewery itself right now," Patterson said. "We haven't had massive sales in H-E-B because we're not in the store yet, so we donated our own personal money as a start to these organizations, all in the San Antonio and Hill Country area. That's one of the things we're going to do, for now anyway, is donate to local veterans' organizations that people can see, that are down the street from where they live, so that they see their dollars are being spent locally."
For the small, locally focused set-ups like Meals for Vets, he said, $500 and even $100 can go a long way toward providing food for veterans in need. Proceeds from Vet Beer will be given on a case-by-case basis, rather than at a set percentage.
So far, reception toward the American lager has been overwhelmingly positive, Patterson said. People on the Vet Beer social media accounts ask where it can be found, and it’s disappointing to say for now that it’s only at Rentsch Brewery — and temporarily sold out. But a plus side to the pandemic seems to be that people want to help each other more than ever, he said, especially front-line workers and members of the military.
"We wish the need for these organizations to help out struggling veterans wasn't there, but it is. That means there’s a need for our beer," Patterson said.
For more information, visit vetbeer.com.