Four of five local microbreweries run by former members of the armed forces

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Cumberland County, NC,  – In addition to being in Cumberland County and having remarkable offerings, a unique component that ties Fayetteville area breweries together is the influence of the military. With Fort Bragg as Fayetteville’s neighbor, the military influence is no surprise. Four of the five breweries are owned by veterans or retired service members. Spouses and family members work at all of them. Additionally, several of the breweries offer special beers that honor and recognize service members.

Dirtbag Ales
While working as an Army medic on the night shift at a military hospital, Vernardo “Tito” Simmons-Valenzuela traded the promise of free beer for life in exchange for a friend’s home brew kit. It was at that moment that Tito started the path to becoming a brewer. Partner Eric Whealton, a nurse who worked the same shift as Tito, attended tasting sessions. After lots of stovetop brewing, Eric encouraged Tito to brew professionally. 

Today, Dirtbag Ales often uses locally sourced products to create a variety of standard and seasonal brews. Blood Orange Kolsch is one of three of Dirtbag Ale’s flagship beers, and the most popular beer.

With impending expansion to a new 8000-sq. foot destination brewery in Hope Mills, Dirtbag Ales expanded and added staff.  Staffer Hope Demetris, who is a military spouse, recently became one of only a select few female brewers in North Carolina.

Huske Hardware House  Restaurant and Brewery  

First opened in 1997, the 100% veteran owned Huske Hardware is located in the heart of downtown Fayetteville.  The local  favorite was a part of the early revitalization effort in downtown Fayetteville.

Huske’s beer is all brewed on site. They boast a 15-barrel brewing system, which is showcased in the center of the restaurant. With three, 12-foot-tall fermenters, Huske is able to brew nearly 500 gallons of craft beer in one turn – from grain to glass in as little as one week.


Mash House Restaurant and Brewing Company

While Mash House Restaurant and Brewing Company 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 non-profits 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 Company

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.  With five to seven of their own brews available, the tap room frequently reaches capacity.  Rotating beers currently include The Brown Irishman, Mike’s Banana Hamik, 60 Watt IPA, Amber's Amber and Honey Rye Dontcha. See the full list here

Lake Gaston Brewing Company

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. Enter Troy, who recently moved to the area.  If it wasn’t for the two of them working with the same realtor, Fayetteville may not have become home to Lake Gaston Brewing Company. A variety of beers are on tap at any given time, to include the All American Strong Ale and the Lafayette Kolsch, which pays homage to Fayetteville’s namesake, the Marquis de Lafayette.

In addition to offering great beer, Lake Gaston Brewing is known for its food. In February, they welcomed Chef Theo Gumbs as their Executive Chef. Born and raised on the U.S. Virgin Islands, Chef Theo has been featured on several TV shows, to include Bravo's Top Chef and Food Network's Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen

North Carolina Beer Month

As expected, April (#NCBeerMonth) is a busy month at local breweries.  They all have special happenings throughout the month.  Go Fayetteville blog has details HERE.

For easy reference, the Hometown Hops Brewery Trail guides visitors to each all greater Fayetteville Breweries.



The FACVB is a private, not-for-profit organization responsible for positioning Cumberland County as a destination for conventions, sporting events and individual travel. For additional information, visit  or call 1-888-98-HEROES.