Angel Blog


In the latest episode of “A Tribute to Our Heroes,” we talk with Army Veteran and small business owner Andy Reynolds. Andy is the owner of Alexandria Brewing, a Kentucky brewery and 2024 Hops for Heroes participant.

Andy shares his background, Military service, deployments, transition out of the Military, and the story of Alexandria Brewing.

You can view our full video interview with Andy below.

Q: What interested you in wanting to join the Military in the first place?

A: I was a student at the University of Cincinnati, and didn’t really like the major I was in. I was a Computer Science major. Also, I got a notification that my second quarter wasn’t going to count because there was a mix-up with my financial aid. Basically I claimed myself on my taxes, and my parents claimed me as a dependent, but I was very independent of them at that time. So it kind of led to me just trying to figure out who I was and where I was. I came home from school one day. My roommate at the time was sitting on the couch watching a documentary on Kosovo. And when that conflict was going on, you know, I was alive during it, but I just didn’t pay any attention, I didn’t care at the time. I got pretty upset with it. I couldn’t believe that there was somebody just committing genocide and the world kind of watched it happen before we actually acted on it. So that was kind of the catalyst for me. My buddy basically said, “What are you doing about it?” So the next day, I called an Army recruiter and I started the process of joining the Army.

Q: What were some of your families’ and friends’ reactions when you told them that you wanted to join?

A: My dad told me I wasn’t going to make it. He told me I’ll be home in a week. And I think that kind of drove me, honestly. My first PT test, I sprained both my ankles they were both swollen up, you know? It was rough, but I think the fact that he told me I couldn’t do it made drive even harder. A lot of my friends just didn’t believe it. They said, “Yeah, we’ll see,” like I was joking about it or they didn’t realize I had already signed up. And I’m like, “No, I’m really going to the Army.” It was odd, you know? Even my girlfriend at the time was just shocked about it and she wanted to like, move in and stuff like that. I’m like, “No, I’m going, I’m finishing out my lease. I’m gonna move back home with my parents for a month, and then I’m going to basic training.” Nobody seemed to realize that until I actually I got on the bus and left.

Q: When was your second deployment and how was it compared to your first one?

A: It was a lot worse. It was ’07-’08, we got into Ramadi for the tail end of the Battle of Ramadi. We were stationed with the Marines. We were attached to them again. About midway through the deployment, we moved to Fallujah. We were route-clearing Ramadi and Fallujah areas. And it was rough. I was a Buffalo Commander at that time. So, you know, I’m in a vehicle that doesn’t have any weapons or any capability to really return fire. Although we rarely did take it. Our main thing was finding IEDs and dealing with them. And that was rough. I mean, we were fortunate enough as a battalion that everybody made it home, but nobody was the same after that deployment. I mean we got our butts kicked. I was hit by an IED while I was over there, and I had a concussion from it. So I was dealing with these migraines. My civilian job was in finance at the time, I was a trader for a big company. And a lot of it was you had to somebody would talk to you and you’d have to relay their numbers back to them. And I was really getting tripped up on these numbers that I’d always been really good with. So, you know, that was that was kind of a big struggle for me. On top of that, you know, the frustration of just day-to-day life was kind of getting to me too. My wife kind of recognized it before I did, but I was having these anger fits. Every time we’d go out and it was crowded, I’d wind up trying to fight somebody. It wasn’t good. She started telling me I needed to get some help. She got me involved with the VA and then she also got me involved with the Wounded Warrior Project. And both of those kind of did their own part of me, I guess, pulling my head out of my butt, so to speak, you know? There was a lot. I still go see a therapist every other week. I mean, that was the hardest part, admitting that I needed help. My life was crumbling around me at that time. I had one child and a second was on the way and my wife was like, “You’ve gotta get this figured out, or I’m taking the kids and leaving.” That was eye-opening for me. It was rough. Yeah. on top of that, I started having problems with my intestines. I had all these precancerous polyps form. They think it’s kind of like one of those burn pit ACT-type things. I had chronic pain and was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. I’ve kind of been dealing with all of that ever since. It was a rough time.

Q: You’ve overcome, you’ve struggled, and you’re now the owner of a brewing company. Tell us the name of your brewing company and what you do now.

A: We’re Alexandria Brewing Company. We’re in Alexandria, Kentucky. I was fortunate enough to go to Project Odyssey with the Wounded Warrior Project, and that’s just a retreat, but a big part of it is learning how to deal with your PTSD. The other big part is goal-setting, so I had two goals while I was there: one was to rewrite my business plan because prior to all my health problems, I kind of started home brewing in Iraq as bad as that sounds. It was just making hard cider, my buddy’s wife sent us some cider yeast and we started fermenting apple juice, and that turned into a love of brewing for me. I got home, became a home brewer, and really got into it. It was one of the few things that I found that distracted me from my demons, but it was something I couldn’t do all the time because I had a regular job at that point. My goal was to start a brewery, but the money we had set aside for it, unfortunately, all went to healthcare bills because I wasn’t service-connected. I didn’t know anything about how to work with the VA at that point because it was never properly explained to me. So I lost a lot of my money. But, through the Wounded Warrior Project, I learned about the VOC Rehab program, it’s a chapter of the GI Bill now. Basically, if you’re service-connected disabled over 20% they pay for any kind of school you want to go to. There is some counseling that goes along with it prior to you leaving things you kind of have to do to try to figure out where you should really be going to school. So I connected there and I went to Siebel Institute of Technology, which is the oldest and probably the most renowned brewing school in the United States. It’s in Chicago. And you know, I learned how to become a professional brewer because of the VA. So that’s one thing that they did for me.

Q: If you were to have a word of advice or some sort of message to any people considering joining the Military, what would your message be?

A: Make sure it’s right for you. I mean, I’ve got a couple of friends in my life right now who have kids that don’t have any direction in life whatsoever and don’t know what they want to do. And I say, “Look at the Military, it’s a great place to start.” You don’t have to do what I did because these are also people who’ve seen my bad sides of what happens from deployment. But there’s a lot of good that comes out of it. I mean, discipline and I can honestly say, if it wasn’t for the Military, I don’t think my business would be here. I don’t think I’d ever figure out what I love to do in life, which is brewing beer. There are a lot of people who have positive reasons to join, but there are a lot of people who never even considered it because they think it’s throwing your life away. And it’s not, it’s great for people, especially if you are in a good direction in your life. It’s definitely something to consider.

From the whole Soldiers’ Angels team, we want to thank Andy for his service to our nation. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss an episode of our “A Tribute to our Heroes” series.

Also, don’t miss Alexandria Brewing’s release of Homefront beer in support of this year’s Soldiers’ Angels Hops for Heroes campaign! They will be releasing the brew on June 14, 2024. Check out all of this year’s breweries on our Hops for Heroes map here.

Want to watch more? Click here to watch more vlogs from the Tribute to our Heroes series.