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SpecHops Brewing Focuses on Stories of Service

Vista’s new brewery is veteran owned and operated


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SpecHops offers a variety of clean, classic beers. | Photo by Bruce Glassman

Anyone who lives in San Diego—or even visits—can see the presence and prevailing influence of the military on our city. The military is, in large part, responsible for San Diego becoming a full-fledged city, now the eighth largest in the country.

Despite all the recent growth in our brewery community, and the inevitable involvement of veterans in many of those breweries, there are almost none that actually focus attention on the culture and communities of the military. SpecHops Brewing in Vista is on a mission to change that.

Owner and founder David Casperson is not only a long-time homebrewer, he’s also a marine. His vision was to open a brewery where the stories of veterans and other public servants could play a part in the day-to-day culture.

The design motif of the tasting room is one way Casperson is focusing attention on America’s service members. Flags of all kinds—from all branches of service—adorn the walls, and various elements, like the tap list chalkboard, emulate military-style communications and reports. In addition to the design elements, SpecHops will also be operating a “story room” where visitors can sit and have their personal stories recorded on video. “It’s not just about veterans,” Casperson explains. “Teachers, firefighters, police officers, first responders, politicians, Masons or Kiwanis members—anyone who’s performed some kind of public service to America can participate.” His plan is to eventually compile, edit, and upload these stories (estimated at a few minutes each) to getyourstorytold.com.

David and Stephanie Casperson are co-founders of SpecHops Brewing. | Photo by Bruce Glassman

The model he’s following, “trying to keep it as simple as possible and not reinvent any wheels,” is the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project, which has gathered an archive of the history of America from World War I all the way through to today. “They have a whole kit that you use,” Casperson says, “which is really 12 pages of key questions that should be asked.”

The idea to do the storytelling aspect of the brewery came to him “as an epiphany” while sitting in a bar one day, telling stories with a bunch of fellow veterans. He realized that a bar or brewery was actually the perfect setting for getting people to open up, trade tales, and speak of their past. Plus, beer and the military have an almost inseparable history.

“The Marine Corps was started in Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern and the Revolutionary War was started in Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern,” Casperson points out. “The history of America is soaked in beer and whiskey, and the big decisions were made over a pint. Simple as that.”

David wants to provide a special place where visitors will feel at ease and free to tell their stories of service. He won’t charge money for making the videos, but he will use his marketing resources to promote that unique aspect of his business. He likens his project to the slow food movement, which focuses on the idea of “one plate and one meal at a time.”

“This is our ‘slow social media’ movement,” David says. “We want people to know that we care enough to sit down with one person at a time, especially with people who served honorably in whatever aspect and didn’t get their stories told. Maybe they weren’t the SEAL who pulled the trigger, or the guy who got the book deal or got on Fox News. Maybe it’s just the person who served four years and happened to be there between Vietnam and 1982, or whenever; we want to hear about their service.”

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