By Don Priest | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s no mistaking the military influence in this Clovis enterprise. Tactical Ops Brewing proudly displays its military heritage in both its décor and products, as owners Brandon Broussard and Justin Campagne each have military connections. “It was to pay tribute/honor to the people that served and fought for our freedom,” says Broussard, whose father served 22 years in the Navy Seabees, while Justin’s younger brother currently flies F-15’s.
Paying homage to the military heritage also extends to the hiring of staff. “Most of the people who work here are former military,” explains production manager, Brett Elsberry. “We have Army, Navy and Marine Corps vets working here. It’s part of Brandon and Justin’s commitment to honor those who’ve served.” Which is how former Marine and now Taproom Manager, Carlos Tovar, came onboard. “I’d been drinking here for about 4 years, and then about a year and a half ago they offered me this job,” he said. “Now I’m in charge of everything that happens in here, and I love it.”
But military trappings aside, it’s the beer that brings the customers in, and there’s a family tradition in that too. Brandon starting brewing 14 years ago with his brother at central coast brewing. That changed in 2013 when an old friend from college moved back to Fresno and encouraged him to start a small operation. “We started brewing 5-gallon batches on the back patio of my engineering office,” he said, “The beer was popular, and then I started brewing 15 gallons at a time.”
That’s when nephew Brett joined the force. “Uncle Brandon asked me to come help out. We went from 5 gallons to 15 gallons, and things were getting out of hand,” he explains. Then Justin stepped in and planted the seed about growing larger, which eventually led to the current location where they brew 120 gallons at a time. “It is fun to create something you can share with others,” says Broussard.
Keeping it in the family, Brett also shares his uncle’s enthusiasm for brewing and is intrigued by the science behind it. “Making beer is passion,” he says. “It’s like cooking. It’s chemistry, physics, blending, temperatures, making a sweet solution to throw yeast in – then when the yeast eats the sugar and the by-product is alcohol. And if you did everything right, you get a great tasting beer.”
The philosophy behind their beer making is easy to understand, explains Brett. “Brandon says it’s like spaghetti. Everyone makes spaghetti, but what makes it different is the quality of the ingredients you put into it, so we use all whole grains. No extractions or shortcuts. Just fresh grains to get that biscuity, malty flavor from the beer.”
Which has led to some interesting experiments, especially with the stouts. “Our stouts are kind of the backbone here,” says Brett. “We just did a toasted coconut stout – a bourbon, vanilla, maple syrup stout – a peanut butter chocolate stout and a regular oatmeal stout – they’re all based on The Basher – that’s the basic oatmeal stout.
“Basher” by the way was the name of the C-130 aircraft Carlos was assigned to in Iraq. “When they were looking for a name for the stout, I told them about my ‘Basher,’ and that’s how it got its name,“ he said.
The other beers at Tactical Ops also have military handles. There’s Valor IPA, Bunker Brown, Boot Camp Pale Ale, Recon Red, and the Blonde Bomber, dedicated to the B-17 crews of WWII. It’s all part of that effort to honor those who served.
Tactical Ops Brewing proudly displays its military heritage – “It was to pay tribute/honor to the people that served and fought for our freedom”
“We do have a lot of vets that come in,” says Carlos. “From Vietnam to my generation. It might be like therapy. They know we’re all vets that work here, so they’re comfortable. We tell stories back and forth. It’s a great little vibe.”
But it’s not just the vets that are enjoying the beers at Tactical Ops. “People from all over the world are finding us,” says Brett. “They see it’s a brewery and want to try it out.”
Bottom line – it’s a social thing. “People just want to come in, relax and have some fun,” says Carlos. “That’s what beer is all about.”