The dozen brewpubs on U.S. military bases appear to be the only effort by the armed services of any country to provide their troops with local, freshly produced beer. The American military maybe uniquely able to sustain such an effort to keep the troops happy, given its size and reach.
However, a British project to bring beer to their forces in the final months of WWII puts the brewpubs into modest perspective. The plan by Britain’s Royal Navy envisioned four ships dedicated to brewing beer. Like our brewpubs, they were to be equipped to brew from extract, with a capacity of 250 barrels per week.
Technical hitches—including exploding drums of malt extract—caused planners to reduce the number of ships to two. The minesweepers Menestheus and Agamemnon were outfitted for the purpose in Vancouver in 1945. Happily, the war in that Pacific came to an end, and thirsty sailors could go home. The Menestheus made one symbolic voyage to ports around the Pacific, pouring an English mild at ceremonial occasions. But although her brewhouse, dubbed “Davy Jones Brewery,” dispensed a style of beer designed to comfort the English working man, the Menestheus never fulfilled her mission of comforting the English working sailor.
The war over, the brewery on the Menestheus was dismantled. She was returned to commercial service until she was abandoned in the seas off California after a fire.