Lou Selvaggio and his brother, Dave, know two things well: craft beer and guns. So it’s no surprise the men poured those passions into a joint business venture unlike anything the craft beer industry has ever seen before.
Gun Craft Beer launched its four flagship brews last year in Itasca, Illinois — a suburb 27 miles northwest of Chicago — from the taps of the Church Street Brewing Company, a family-owned operation with a fondness for European-inspired ales and lagers.
“What do we want this beer to be about? It’s about the freedom we have in this country and our love of this freedom and our love of this country,” Lou Selvaggio told Guns.com. “That’s the initial vibe of what we do.”
Selvaggio’s love for craft beer dates back to the early 1980s — about the same time Dave founded D.S. Arms in Lake Barrington, Illinois. The brothers long dreamed of dabbling in the alcohol industry, though initially, Selvaggio said, they considered launching a liquor.
“It’s been done. You’ve seen the gun shaped bottle in the store,” he said. “People buy them because they look cool, but the liquor isn’t always the best. So the bottle just kind of collects dust at the back of the bar. We wanted to make right and not just make this a gimmick.”
So the brothers went on a months-long search for the perfect brewmaster. Selvaggio said the stars aligned on April 7, 2015 — National Beer Day — when they met Ken McMullen, a professional brewer with more than 20 years of experience who loved the Second Amendment concept as much as the Selvaggio brothers.
“The most important thing to me was always to have exceptional beer,” Selvaggio said. “And he really was just the right guy for that.”
McMullen and the Selvaggio brothers spent another year developing four signature flavors — all designed to honor the Second Amendment and stand out in an ever-expanding field of craft beers. It’s best seller, the Tactical American Pale Ale, combines US Magnum hops with aromas of grapefruit, melon and lime, producing for a “precise caramel malt character.”
The FAL Belgian Style Black Ale honors the famed rifle — “the right arm of the free world” — and is Dave’s personal favorite. His company manufactures the complete FN FAL 7.62mm rifle system, after all.
“It’s the lightest black beer you’ll ever drink,” Selvaggio said. “We didn’t want it to be like motor oil or a heavy beer.”
The Second Amendment Red IPA earns its distinctive red hue and caramel malt notes from a combination of four premium hops. “We feel the Second Amendment is to honor the bloodshed for our freedoms in this country,” Selvaggio said. “So it had to be a red amber ale.”
The brothers conceptualized the M4 Amber Ale to be lightweight and effective, just like its namesake. “It’s really malt-forward. No hop character in it whatsoever. It’s that crossover beer that might bring a domestic beer drinker to our side.”
The first cans rolled down the line in late 2017, just in time for the brothers to pack up and head to the 2018 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. From there, the AR-15-shaped taps began popping up in bars across Illinois. Selvaggio said the brand doesn’t just cater to gun guys — a key factor in its success so far.
“We market to firearm people, to craft beer drinkers, to domestic beer drinkers, to active duty, veterans and first responders,” he said. “We’re not a gun company, we are a craft beer company. We wanted to make sure we kept that message clear and simple.”