Or even that a therapist asks a patient when he’s going to start his own brewery.
But both those things were true for Jeff Brooks, and Bravo Zulu is the result.
Brooks is a Navy and Army veteran who returned from combat to continue a battle, this time with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“When I first came back from Iraq, I was a mess,” said Brooks.
One of the suggestions from his therapist was to create a detailed plan for a business. Brooks had worked in a brewpub downstate, so he came up with the idea for a brewery.
“I had no intention of opening [a brewery],” he said. “When we got to the end of it, I said this was just a therapy project.”
But encouraged to pursue his idea, Brooks applied for a loan through the VA Patriot Express program administered by the Small Business Association.
To his surprise, the loan was approved. “They said, ‘You’ve got it,’” he said. “That’s when I knew I was opening a brewery.”
While he’s pleased at the success of his business, he’s even happier that he can use it to help others, by his own example as well as by simply talking with vets and/or their families.
Bravo Zulu is located in a former auto dealership building in Acme, so there are plenty of windows. That was great in the winter, when Brooks said the occasional sunshine would help it reach the high 70s inside while temperatures were below zero outdoors.
This summer, he’ll add shade with plantings indoors and out, including decorative hops.
“We won’t be using it in the beer, but it’s something no one else is doing,” he said.
He also intends to soften the décor and remove the old brick planter in the middle of the parking lot, which he says is a hazard to drivers.
But the biggest development is something Brooks thought he’d never do: He’s adding a kitchen to his brewery, making it a brewpub.
Brooks says he was persuaded to serve food after a friend pointed to the empty pizza boxes and fast-food bags in the garbage, telling Brooks, “All this trash should be yours.”
Brooks is philosophical about the idea. “I don’t know anything about food,” he said, “but I didn’t know anything about brewing either.”
The menu will start small, because Brooks says he doesn’t want to compete with the nearby restaurants that have supported him.
Instead, the food will be limited to just a few items, such as all-beef hot dogs, Polish sausage, and chicken wings.
The bar food menu should pair well with Brooks’s beer. McFinn is a stout with 10.45 percent alcohol, made in honor of radio station 104.5 Bob FM.
Brooks said his staff is instructed to serve no more than two of those to anyone because of the high alcohol content.
Other brews include Dirty Blonde and Law Dog. Overseeing all the brews is Matt Rosinski, the head brewer. Brooks hired him and provides input, but largely stays hands off.
Brooks says the apple ale, made originally with Honeycrisp apples, has been a huge hit.
“We went through 14 kegs in 14 days,” he said. “It was very popular.”
Meantime, he’s looking at other types of apples, trying to determine which ones will produce a similarly crowd-pleasing beverage.
The Acme Cherry Bomb, profiled in the Express a couple months ago, remains the brewery’s signature beer. After tweaking the original recipe by pairing hops with local cherries, the beer has in its own way benefited area farmers as well as Bravo Zulu patrons.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Brooks said that while getting the brewery up and running was difficult and demanding, it was all worth it in the end.
“There were times I’d go to Christ the King [church] and ask for patience,” he said. “It was really rough – I’d shake my head and wonder what I was thinking.
“Now we’re doing very well. I’m ecstatic,” he said.
In fact, he says business is so good that he already is putting plans in place for an expansion.
“We need more tanks to make more beer,” he said.
Brooks is pointing toward events for the summer. He intends to host a bike night weekly.
“As soon as we’re sure it’s not going to snow. Probably June,” he said with a laugh.
Most important, though, is that the brewery provides him with a forum and a success story to talk about with other veterans suffering from PTSD.
“That’s what it was really all about,” Brooks said. “It helped me go from a dark [place] to a functional member of society.”
Pints are $4; four-ounce flights are $1. Prices of food items to be determined.
Bravo Zulu is located at 6060 U.S. 131S in Williamsburg. For more, visit bravozulubrewing.com or its Facebook page. Hours are Mon.-Thurs., 1pm-12am; Fri. and Sat. 1pm-2am; Sundays, 12pm-12am. Closing hours can vary.