Paige Haley and Kimberly Rogers of Pepperell, who grew up in military families, created 50 Back American Lager for that very purpose. Every time they sell a beer, they give half of the profits to groups supporting veterans, active service members, and their families.
So far the women say they have donated more than $6,000 in cash to charity, plus $4,000 in beer donations for fund-raising events. The nonprofits they've supported include the USO, Homes for Our Troops, the Ahern Family Charitable Foundation, the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund, and America's VetDogs.
"Our priority is really just to say 'thank you' to our troops and veterans for their service," Rogers said. "When my father passed away, I wanted to do something in his honor to say 'thank you' for his life of service. [Haley] said, 'Well, why don't we do a beer.' I said, 'Hmm, beer, all right. That's an interesting thought.'"
The beer, which launched last Memorial Day and is nicknamed "The Brew of the Brave," is about to mark its first anniversary. Six-packs retail for $7.99, and the beer is available in 250 stores and restaurants in Massachusetts, mostly in the eastern and central parts of the state. The women are trying to expand distribution to the rest of New England, and they recently go 50 Back into the Harris Teeter supermarket chain in North Carolina.
How is the beer itself? Contract-brewed by Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in New York, 50 Back is a decent pale lager. Golden straw in color, well carbonated, and 4.9 percent alcohol, it's similiar to other pale lagers out there -- Moosehead, Michelob, and the like. It's a fine poolside beer, and certainly a step above the corn-fed drek churned out by the big corporations.
"We didn't want to start out with anything too exotic, bitter, hoppy, whatever," she said. "And yet we didn't want something so completely light that it didn't have any taste. We tried to hit in the middle -- trying to attract the broadest spectrum of beer drinkers that we could in the beginning. We get various comments -- that it's way too heavy, 'You should do a light,' to, 'This has no taste at all. Are you thinking of doing a porter, a stout?'" In fact, Rogers said, they may try an IPA or an Oktoberfest-style beer next.
So here's the thing: If you're going to pick up a case of basic beer for a backyard barbecue, you may as well bypass the Bud and give 50 Back a shot -- and do some good while you're feeling good.