“It’s a detail-oriented process, which we’re all used to. We have an end goal and how to get there. And it’s not life or death — it’s beer.”
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jon Alexander
Task Force Brewing
One night in the early 1990s, retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jon Alexander and retired Col. Colin Miller were drinking beer and talking about what they wanted to do after their military service. At the time, the two were roommates while serving with 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Naturally, the idea of brewing their own beer and selling it came up while having a round or two.
“It was an early stage of quality control and research,” Miller said.
Fast forward more than 20 years, and the two are part of a three-way partnership that is Task Force Brewing. Jim Leise, who separated from the Army as a captain in 1992, joined the trio after connecting with Miller through social media.
The brewing company is in its infancy, creating beers at Wingman Breweries in Tacoma. It’s one of several local breweries that Miller has volunteered for since his 2011 Army retirement.
He said he considered the time spent an internship where his return on investment was the knowledge of brewing beer commercially.
Miller still keeps in touch with Ken Thoburn, now the head of brewing at Wingman, Morgan Alexander at Tacoma Brewing Company and Shane Johns at E9 Brewery.
“As I developed the plan, I would talk to Ken about different ideas and different aspects of (the business),” Miller said. “Whether it’s production schedules or distribution, sales, marketing (or) branding, there’s a lot that goes into a small business.”
For all three, Task Force Brewing is not just about making careers out of something they’ve enjoyed for decades. They’re launching a business plan that requires some of the same skill sets they used in their Army careers — just in a much lower pressure environment.
“It’s a detail-oriented process, which we’re all used to,” Alexander said. “We have an end goal and how to get there. And it’s not life or death — it’s beer.”
Task Force Brewing has a few options that are currently brewed out of Wingman in Tacoma: four Indian pale ales like Kingdome and Recalibration, an Irish stout, a Celtic red, a lager and a Pilsner. Variety is key for any brewing company in the Pacific Northwest, Miller said.
Miller has a distributor who get beers on taps in Pierce and Kitsap counties, while Miller self-distributes in King County. People are already providing positive feedback.
“People are starting to hear things, and when you’re talking about the Seattle market, which is 2 million people in the area, to have people hearing good things about our beer is great,” Miller said. “It starts to prep the battlefield.”
The trio is working on a physical brewery location in Lakewood that they hope to open this August. The end goal is to brew their beers on site and have a taproom and a kitchen to serve food to customers.
Miller said he also hopes it can act as training grounds for military homebrewers and those aspiring to get into commercial brewing. Although Miller said he had the luxury of spending his free time how he wanted after retirement, he knows many service members getting out may not have the same option.
He wants Task Force Brewing to bring in active and former service members to give them a chance to grow into their own.
“I think that when you spend time in the military, there’s a tendency to (want to) do something on your own — be your own boss or start your own business,” Miller said. “It’s the American dream — making something yourself, putting it out there and letting people tell you what they think.”
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