Behind the Brews at YVBC

Behind the Brews

Thomas Wilder and Neil McCanon, co-owners of Young Veterans Brewing Co.

Thomas Wilder and Neil McCanon became buddies long before the two were able to drink the craft beer they brew at Young Veterans Brewing Co., the Virginia Beach-based military-themed brewery the two opened in 2013.

In fact, the duo got to know each other while participating in Kellam High School’s theater department, where they spent their junior and senior years writing, directing and performing their own material.

Upon graduation, McCanon joined the Army, and six months later, Wilder joined the Army National Guard.

“The Army took me to Germany where I learned to like craft beer,” said McCanon, now 30. “Since then, it’s been my passion.”

McCanon spent three years in the Army with the 1st Infantry Division, and did a tour in Iraq. After getting out for a short period, he re-enlisted in the Army Reserves and spent seven years as a drill sergeant.

“It was time for a change,” McCanon said. “I wanted something different.”

Meanwhile, Wilder spent four years in the Army National Guard, and did a 14-month tour in Iraq. When he got out of the service, he worked as a teacher.

“We always stayed in touch through the years, and shared an apartment at times,” said Wilder, 30. “We look out for each other.”

In 2006, a friend brought over a home brew kit, and the friends tried their skills at creating their first batch.

“We named it Dog Slobber, because the dog drank some of it while we were trying to create it,” Wilder said. “We drank it anyway, and it was pretty good.”

Young Veterans Brewing Company

That’s when McCanon and Wilder caught the home brew bug. It didn’t take long for them to come up with their own recipes and start to build reputation. Soon after, they started tossing around the idea of opening their own place.

“We did a lot of research and a lot of work,” McCanon said. “We made sure we were ready.”

It took the team six years to plan opening YVBC – two of them were spent raising the funds necessary to open. They established the business in 2012, but officially opened the tap house Sept. 7, 2013.

“That was the best day of my life,” Wilder said. “We did what we always wanted to do.”

Today, YVBC makes about 60 barrels of its own beer per month. They have a cozy tap house that’s open six days a week.

And, every day is military discount day.

“We are doing really well,” McCanon said. “We’re thinking about expanding, but we really like this spot and want to use more space here.”

Whether or not the two decide to expand this year or wait until next, one thing is for certain: They will continue to have a blast brewing the beer they love, while bonded by a shared passion for creating – just like back in high school.

Q&A with YVBC

Q. What is your favorite beer?
Tom: Beach Brewing’s Hoptopus
Neil: Bells Two Hearted is always a hit with me. (It’s) a great all-around IPA.

Q. Beer tastes best with…
Tom: A lot of hops in it.
Neil: Friends and conversation.

Q. Advice you would give yourself 5 years ago?
Tom: Don’t sell your car...
Neil: Don’t wait to get started with your life’s work, be a man of action.

Q. What is the best part of your job?
Tom: The independence.
Neil: The smell or having fighter pilots and special forces guys tell me how cool my job is.

Q. Pet peeve?
Tom: Unclaimed farts. Just own it.
Neil: People standing around watching me work without pitching in.

Q. Best bar pick up line you’ve heard?
Tom: “Have you met Ted?”
Neil: I try not to listen to those.

Q. What did you do before this job?
Tom: Delivered wine for Roanoke Valley Wine Co.
Neil: Army Reserve and lots of odd jobs.

Q. Something you can’t live without?
Tom: Music!
Neil: I couldn’t live without games.

Q. People would be surprised to know…
Tom: I play in a band called Carnival Barker and we’ve recorded an album.
Neil: I’ve participated in the running of the bulls twice.

Q. When you aren’t at work, what are you doing?
Tom: Spending time with my wife and family. I go to the gym, play my guitar, play ping pong with friends and try to catch any concert worth seeing.
Neil: Spending time with my beautiful fiancée, Alison.

Young Veterans Brewing Company
2505 Horse Pasture Rd, Virginia Beach, 23453
(757) 689-4021

Mondays: closed
Tuesday - Thursday: 3 to 8 p.m.
Friday: 3 to 11 p.m.
Saturday: noon to 11 p.m.
Sunday: noon to 8 p.m.

Want to see Tom and Neil’s creative conceptions come to life? Check out Young Veterans Brewing Co.’s YouTube channel to see all of the short films the two have created.