Amanda Rylee is making craft brew with a cause

As a junior majoring in EEE in the Whitman School of Management, Amanda balances a demanding schedule as an officer with the 108th Infantry Army National Guard in Utica and full-time Syracuse University student.

She is also an entrepreneur who appreciates the art of craft beer. Her interests are coming together in a venture she is launching, Blood, Sweat and Beers, with a goal is to create a “kickass craft brew” specifically for a niche military audience. Her business model has a double bottom line, promoting safe drinking, with a portion of the profits going to support military organizations such as the Wounded Warriors Project, Disabled American Veterans and the USO.

Having grown up in Fairhope, Alabama in a family that works in the craft beer and distillery industry, Amanda remembers going on long road trips with her mother visiting customers and local breweries. Her love for well-made craft beer helped her notice a market trend.  Craft beer production has increased by 16% since 2015, but there is no brand specifically brewed for the military.  She did her research and realized there is also a ready-made distribution network through more than 2,700 military exchanges.

Since enlisting in the military five years ago, she saw that military personnel often grab a beer after work to relax and socialize.  She also realized that there are no niche craft beer options for sale at military exchanges – only large commercial brands.  She did customer discovery interviews with active members of the military and veterans, and discovered they were interested in craft beers. She spoke with military exchanges who indicated interest in her concept.  With that validation, she got to work refining her concept for a EEE class during the fall semester of 2017.  She reached out to advisors who have backgrounds in the beer and distillery business, found a master brewer, and identified the perfect spot for her brewery in a historic building in a Main Street revitalization district in Marion, Alabama.  And then she connected with the Blackstone LaunchPad to refine her business model in anticipation of competing in competitions to raise seed funds to help kickstart her goal of creating a craft beer company that gives back to the military and their service.

Blood, Sweat and Beers envisions a product line that represents the five military branches and civilian contractors. She is working on concepts with fun names like Blue Falcon Lager, Puddle Pirate Pale Ale, and Zero Dark Thirty Double IPA. Six packs will come with a wristband to promote responsible drinking, and packaging will reinforce that messaging.

Amanda will be competing in several campus business plan competitions this spring, so come out and support her mission. If you’re interested in being part of that mission, you can find her at the Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library:

Photo and story by Amanda Chou ‘18, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow