Combat veteran brewing beer to help comrades

A couple of months ago Ryan Preston came up with the idea to brew a beer for veterans and have a portion of the proceeds go to the Veterans Association Food Bank.

He approached staff at Cold Garden who liked the idea. He talked about his venture with a number of friends and business colleagues who got on board by pledging to match donations. Now Preston is looking at a donation of close to $12,000.

"The fact that this went from something that I thought might be like a little $500 donation, we're jumping up in some cash and it's going to be an amazing presentation," he said.

Blake Belding is the co-founder, co-owner and head of production at Cold Garden.

"I heard his story (and) I agreed to do it," said Belding. "I just didn't expect it was going to get this big and I said yeah let's go for it and now it's this huge thing so I'm really stoked, I think we'll make it an annual thing."

Belding said the veterans beer is already brewing and should be ready for tasting the first week in November. He's made a production batch of 2000 pints.

"We kind of wanted something really approachable, that was easy to drink, but also that was like really delicious and was worthy of the cause so we settled on just a classic lager with a little bit of a malty base to it."

Belding said lagers are notoriously difficult to make because they take a little longer than ales.

"So that was our like testament," said Belding. "We're putting in the effort on this one and we know that it'll be something that everybody enjoys and it's something that will sell quickly so that the proceeds can get into the food bank's hands."

Preston served in the Second Battalion with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from 2002-07. He was part of Canada's first mission to Afghanistan in 2006.

"The whole Afghanistan mission right now that's crumbled, has really hit not only myself but I know a lot of my other comrades and veterans," he said.

Preston has a good support group around him and sought help when his military career ended. He hasn't had to use the Veterans Association Food Bank but knows it's a valuable service to those who need it. Now he wants to give back.

"It's very important," said Preston. "I mean I served for reason, I wanted to serve my country, I'm out and I want to continue serving."

Charles Redeker, the operations manager at the Veterans Association Food Bank, said the association just registered its 500th client with the youngest being just 26 years old. Redeker said it takes a lot for a veteran to admit they need help and once they're in the door to pick up some food, they have access to a number of programs to help them.

Redeker said he was thankful for Preston's efforts.

"It's tremendous," he said. 'You know aside from it being donation revenue coming in it's the support of the community to what we're doing, there's companies and people in the community that believe in what we're doing and the assistance that we're providing veterans."

Learn more about the food bank here: www.veteransassociationfoodbank.ca