Today (April 7) is National Beer Day and given the hardships that we are facing as a global community due to the COVID-19 crisis, our team at ScoutInsight wanted to focus on an industry that is near and dear to our hearts…craft brewing! For the entire month of April, we will be celebrating our passion by sharing a new piece of content focused on women veterans and brewing. To start us off is this interview with Torie Fisher, founder of Backward Flag Brewing located in New Jersey.
“Woman Owned. Veteran Brewed.” A Talk with the Veteran Behind Backward Flag Brewing
Torie Fisher, the founder of Backward Flag Brewing, did 4 years of active duty in the Army. After leaving active duty, a shaky transition experience motivated her to re-enlist in the Army National Guard, serving for a total of 13 years. Fisher describes her post-military transition as a stereotypical “failed reintegration case.” She felt extremely lost after getting out and was in search of a community where she could feel connected again. Ultimately, it is the culture she found in the brewing industry that started to fill that void.
Fisher started Arms to Artisans, a program that gives veterans who were new to civilian life a chance to thrive in artisan trades. The inspiration behind the program is rooted in her own military transition experience. She worked in several jobs where she “either quit or got fired” enroute to find that one thing that made her feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie that she left behind in the Army. Fisher says, “I wasn’t qualified to do a lot of good higher paying jobs. I was either overqualified for minimum wage jobs or under qualified for higher paying jobs. I really felt stuck.”
Fisher recalls that when she first opened her brewery, she’d get resumes from veterans that were all over the place, but was willing to give them a chance because she knew where they were coming from. For Fisher, the biggest gap within VA education benefits is that, too often, on the job training and certification in artisanal fields and trades are not covered by education benefits. She recognized a need for a pipeline that could transition veterans to artisan careers beyond the brewing industry; other partisan trades they have helped veterans break into include cigar making and roasting coffee.
Given the steady stream of veterans interested in Arms 2 Artisans, Fisher has thought about transitioning out of the brewing industry in order to pursue the nonprofit full time. Individuals interested in participating in the program just need to provide Fisher with their ideas and she works with them to figure out a pathway to make things happen. Among the many take-aways from Fisher’s interview, one that stands out is that mentorship is a powerful tool. For many people, traditional paths like university degrees may not always be the best way to get them where they’re trying to go.
For those interested in pursuing careers as brewmasters or brewery owners, Fisher recommends getting as much exposure to the industry as possible. Immerse yourself in the available literature, do your homework to be as familiar with the language and current industry culture as possible. Once you get started, be prepared “to work your ass off and whatever you do, don’t do it alone.” It’s crucial to have a strong support system in place, whether that’s people in your personal life or by joining groups of like-minded individuals, such as a women entrepreneurs group.
We’ll be celebrating National Beer Day throughout the entire month of April! Each week, we’ll take a look into a different area of the craft brewing industry. Stay tuned for next week’s ScoutInsight Spotlight as we take a deeper look into the history of the brewing industry.