Employee Perspectives: 2018 Veterans Blend

by | Dec 5, 2018

This month, Yakima Chief Hops is proud to deliver a check to Semper Fi Fund, thanks to the brewers that have purchased and brewed with our 2018 Veterans Blend. This exclusive hop blend was a collaborative effort of many YCH employees and brewers, all with a passion to give thanks and show support to our brave US Armed Forces. Spencer Tielkemeier, YCH’s regional sales manager of the South, spearheaded the project earlier this year.

“The 2018 Veteran’s Blend selection took place during the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Nashville, TN. Brewers from Service Brewing, Big Beach Brewing, Red Leg Brewing and Beer Army Brewing created a unique blend, choosing proportions from over 10 US-grown varieties,” recalls Spencer. “They employed a traditional rub-and-smell of whole cones and voted on the final blend recipe, eventually settling on a mix of five excellent American varieties. The diverse flavor contributions included in the blend create a pellet with a much wider range of flavor characteristics than could be provided by any one variety alone.”

Various veteran members of YCH staff were involved in both the creation and trialing of the blend. Participants included Jonathan Sikes, Southeast Regional Sales Manager and former US Marine; Rich Van Horn, grower-owner and former US Reserve Marine and David Paulson, YCH’s former Director of Strategic Planning and former US Marine.

“The blend stems from a company-wide desire to use YCH’s resources to create positive change in small but growing parts of our industry,” says Spencer. “By supporting initiatives like the Veteran’s Blend and the Pink Boots Blend we’re able to leverage our supply chain to the benefit of more than just brewers. We hope these blends inspire our customers to brew beers that multiply these efforts nationwide. We’re incredibly pleased to partner with the Semper Fi Fund this year to help critically injured veterans.”

Last month, many of the participating brewers tapped and served their special Veterans Blend brews on Veteran’s Day. In celebration of this day, we took a moment to interview a few of our own veterans at YCH and chatted with them about their thoughts on our newest community blend.

  • What branch of the military did you serve in, and for how many years? Where were you located?
    • Jonathan Sikes, Southeast Regional Sales Manager: USMC only for about a year. I was sidelined and eventually medically discharged for a service connected injury. I was stationed at multiple posts in the Carolinas.
    • Nick Wolf, Network Engineer: I was in the Army for 8 years, 4 years at Fort Campbell Kentucky, and 4 years in Stuttgart, Germany.
  • What role did you play in the military?
    • Jonathan: I was an Infantry Rifleman
    • Nick: The bulk of my time was spent as a Sergeant, officially my job title was a Satellite Communications Operator and Maintainer. My role however was the application and education of network based systems in support of special operations worldwide, I always referred to my position/job as communications.
  • What hardships and challenges did you face as a member of our Armed Forces?
    • Jonathan: Other than the regular rigors of training, the toughest part for me was being sidelined with the injury and ultimately having to leave my comrades when I was discharged.
    • Nick: I don’t know how to articulate the strange and unexpected challenges that come from war.
  • What has been your involvement in the creation and establishment of our new Veterans Blend?
    • Jonathan: I helped with the initial trial beer at Bale Breaker. Well I wasn’t much help but I was there for the brew day.
  • What does this new seasonal product mean to you?
    • Jonathan: I feel it’s a neat idea to spread the donations around to a different veteran charity each year. Veterans Affairs covers some of the needs for our vets but there are far too many cases where the benefits fall short and our vets lack the support they need.
    • Nick: It’s one thing to say that you support veterans, but doing something, anything, does tax and take away from an organization in a tangible manner – not to mention the political stage you automatically enter. That sacrifice separates a superficial slogan from actual support. I’m very honored to be able to be a part of it.
  • In what ways do you feel the Veterans Blend will help to support the American veteran community?
    • Jonathan: There are a lot of veterans in the beer industry, I foresee many breweries getting behind this to help support the charities.
    • Nick: Perhaps the dislocation that comes from the stresses of being a veteran today will be partly assuaged knowing that people care.
  • This year, we are donating to Semper Fi Fund. Are there any organizations in specific that you hope to contribute to in the future through the Veterans Blend program?
    • Jonathan: There are several great ones including Semper Fi Fund. Wounded Warrior Project is another one I’ve heard great things about.
    • Nick: Wounded Warrior is obviously a good one. However, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation would be my recommendation. They do some of the most dangerous and most important work.