Stuart Forster sips a bottle of Red On beer and interviews Sean Crawford, the founder of DropZone Brewery.
During an autumn evening in 2020, Sean Crawford was drinking wine with a friend. By the time they had drained their final glasses of the night, the concept behind DropZone Brewery was sketched out.
Sean is a security executive and the founder of Special Operations Agency, which hosts luxury espionage-themed adventures. He served in the British Army as a paratrooper.
A Bridge Too Far
“Every year, in September, there’s a pilgrimage and reunion in Arnhem of people who worked on the film A Bridge Too Far,” says Sean, referencing the war movie about Operation Market Garden in 1944. It tells the story of Allied airborne divisions and their valiant efforts to capture strategic targets near the western bank of the River Rhine.
“They descend for a big knees-up with a beer wagon and so on,” explains Sean about the annual get-together in Arnhem.
The reminisces he shared with his friend prompted a discussion about making a beer for the airborne forces.
“We decided that there was a bigger market. We came in with the entry point of an airborne beer,” he recalls.
DropZone Brewery’s first beer
Strategically, airborne forces are often deployed ahead of other troops. With that military function in mind, Red On takes on a symbolic meaning being the first of DropZone Brewery’s beers.
“It’s the first beer and every beer that follows will have a military connotation to it,” says Sean.
“It was all designed to allow us to generate charity money for charities and individuals. So if an individual needs help, we can signpost people where they can get help for PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] or general help if they’re down on their luck. And create a platform to communicate,” explains Sean about DropZone Brewery. His aim is to nominate a different charity or project each quarter.
A forum for military veterans
He’s also in the process of creating an online veteran forum to connect and communicate with the community of veteran service personnel.
“In the military, there are two things that are big on the agenda. One is a chat over a beer. The other is having a cup of coffee over a NAAFI [Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes] break and a chat. We want people to remember that. There are a lot of guys out there with a sense of isolation. What we’re trying to do is create a sense of purpose and sense of belonging,” says Sean, explaining the background to his initiative.
An English blonde ale
Red On is a blonde ale. Easy to drink, it has a morish quality. At 4.6 per cent alcohol by volume, the beer is not too strong and sessionable.
“We’re planning on releasing a cider with the name Green On Go. In the airborne fraternity ‘red on’ was the call to action stations. You stood at the door waiting to jump. ‘Red on’ prepares you. Then the green goes on and you go. We thought of apples and cider as green, so it made sense,” says Sean.
“We’re also launching a pale ale called Buckshee. From the airborne, we wanted to find a way to segue into the rest of the services. Buckshee is a term used throughout the whole of the services. ‘Is something buckshee?’ means ‘is it spare? Is it free?’,” he adds. Then explains: “A lot of military slang dates from colonial days. ‘Shifty’ is from Arabic ‘to look’. ‘How many shekels have you got?’ is a widely used phrase for ‘how much money have you got’?”
Beer brewed in Yorkshire
DropZone’s beers will be brewed in Ripon, North Yorkshire, at the Hambleton Brewery. Outsourcing the brewing enabled DropZone to save on infrastructural investment.
Similarly, Green on Go cider is produced at Somerset Cider Solutions. It is a blend based on the flavour profile of market-leading ciders.
Sean in currently in the process of liaising with distribution companies. His aim is to ensure that the DropZone Brewery’s bottles are affordably priced but make a profit. That will enable the company to give back to charities and projects.
He also plans to launch an eight-year-old single-origin rum and a navy strength gin in 2021.
Visit the DropZone Brewery website to purchase products, merchandise and read blog posts.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this interview with Sean Crawford of DropZone Brewery. If you enjoy beer, check out these posts about beer from around the world and the Toer de Geuze in Flanders, Belgium.
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