Colorado Springs is known as a military town and is home to many veteran-owned businesses. One of these—JAKs Brewing Company, stands out with a truly unique motto: “aggressive beer for aggressive beer drinkers.”
“At JAKs, we draw our traditions from two great Air Force legacies, those of the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron (26 SAS) and the 310th Bombardment Group (today, the 310th Space Wing) in which most of the ownership team proudly served,” says Antonio “Tony” Lee, one of the three original founders and owners. “That’s where our ‘aggressive beer’ slogan originates.” Jeff Marjamaa, Antonio, and Ken Trousdale may be the original initials that make up the name JAKs, but the family of owners quickly grew with the addition of another “A,” Alex Escarcega and his wife Dawn. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Ryan Jensen, who saw the potential from the beginning and invested as soon as he could.
JAKs Brewing Company is technically in Falcon, just east of Colorado Springs, but it has a Peyton zip code. “Falcon is where we came up with this idea, and we knew our community needed us as much as we needed to follow this dream for ourselves,” says Lee.
JAKs is truly a family affair, according to Lee. “We all pitch in to make the brewery a welcoming place for our patrons and a place where we give back to our community. Alex’s wife, Dawn, and Ken’s wife, Cheryl, run the Colorado Springs taproom. My wife, Nikki; Jeff’s wife, Laura; and Ryan’s wife, Jennifer, are also huge supporters and step in whenever we need them,” he says.
Whereas brewing beer is the main business objective, community is their focus. “We were named the best of Colorado Springs veteran-owned business a few years back,” says Lee. “We’ve raised more than $100,000 in our short, seven-year history for local community members in need. We’ve supported veteran organizations, families, and many children’s groups. Whether it is to help with medical bills, supply food through a food pantry, or help replace items after a house fire…we are there. We are a military bar where groups will come for change of command, retirement ceremonies, and heritage events, but we also open up our bar space to any charity who needs it.”
JAKs began supporting small businesses right from the beginning by bringing in the first food trucks to Falcon and letting them park at the brewery. As with many craft brewers, food trucks are the answer to feeding patrons without having to pull a restaurant license. The brewery also supports other local businesses through small business Sundays. The brewery opens its taproom for free to small businesses, offering a space where they can showcase their products and services.
When the pandemic hit, Lee said the JAKs family looked around at their huge space just sitting there, shut down. They decided the best way they could support their community was to temporarily convert the brewery into a food pantry.
“Within 36 hours, our space was jammed with donated food,” says Lee. “It was an amazing outpouring of generosity from a community, who, like many communities, had lost jobs almost overnight. And, while we were helping take care of those in need, we also gave back to our essential workers by providing them free beverages of their choice. When you enter the military, you learn a code that includes always giving back to your community, and the brewing world is very similar.”
JAKs survived the pandemic and continues to thrive with big plans in 2022. Lee says they hope to open more taprooms and are excited about additional distribution of their beer through some canning opportunities in the future.
“I feel like we’re planting seeds that we may not see come to fruition in our lifetime, but hopefully, it will during our children’s lifetime,” Lee says. “It’s all about leaving a legacy. We talk a lot about family, and we welcome everyone into the JAKs family. We may be military, but our patrons truly become part of our JAKs family. Our patrons could be your teacher, your coach, your plumber, or your mechanic. We are all family.”