Newberry Brother Goes to the UK to Study Brewing
Many people graduate from college and take their degrees into the world to start a career in their chosen field. But after graduating with a BA in history and a minor in military science, Benjamin Brooks (Delta Epsilon–Newberry ’07) joined the U.S. Army and is now continuing his education in what may be a somewhat unlikely place, in a somewhat unusual field of study.
Brooks is working towards his master’s in science in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University, a public research university based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Brooks and his wife, Jesi, are currently living in the small town of Blairgowrie, about an hour from Edinburgh. After Brooks graduated from Newberry he entered the U.S. Army, continuing a family tradition. Once he left the Army he decided to go back to school and is now doing that using the GI Bill.
“I was originally supposed to go to the Citadel, but I decided to stick with Newberry,” he said. “I liked it, I wanted the college experience. I was National Guard my first three years, but I actually did that while I was still in school, and as soon as I graduated I went active duty.”
“After I got out of the military in 2016 I was working down in Charleston, South Carolina,” he continued. “I was looking at going back to get my master’s, I’d wanted to do it for a long time, and I got an email from the VA, saying that they now support schools in the UK. So we started looking at different subjects for me, and my wife’s actually the one who found that they offered brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt. I sent them [my information], they said everything was great, come on over. So I’m getting my master’s in brewing and distilling, and the government’s paying for it. It’s been tough – it’s a lot of science, classes in engineering, microbiology – I now have a lot more respect for distillers and brewers.”
As a Delta Epsilon brother, Brooks served as Number VIII, and led the Council of Honor for two years.
“…So I joined KA, and to this day, it was one of the better decisions I made in my life.”
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to join a fraternity because my thing was getting into the military as quick as I could,” he said. “It was actually my parents’ idea – they said, ‘You’re a very social person, you need to get out and join some sort of group.’ So I joined KA, and to this day, it was one of the better decisions I made in my life.”
“One thing that KA really helped me out with was continuing the leadership that I wanted to do, and that was truly making me a better person.”
Brooks continues to carry the tenets and lessons of his KA experience into his life at 34. “Something KA taught me,” he said, “was that brotherhood is probably above all. I still talk to a lot of my brothers I was in college with. The brotherhood I had in the Army, I kind of already knew about that from being in KA. But something else KA taught me was about leadership. One thing that KA really helped me out with was continuing the leadership that I wanted to do, and that was truly making me a better person.”
“I came into college with having a military background from my family,” he said, “and I was one of those freshmen who thought he was cool. But four years of KA taught me that it isn’t really about you, it’s nothing about you, it’s about everybody else. It really made me think about other people instead of myself. To this day, I love hearing stories about other brothers helping each other out, and helping out the elderly and other things. KA truly does make you a better person, by teaching you brotherhood, loyalty, leadership, but that, above all else, it’s about the people around you. It’s about the family, it’s about your friends, and that’s one of the things that’s just stuck with me forever.”
Brooks said that his eventual plan is to someday return to the States and work in sales and marketing with a distillery or brewery, but that he’s not about to start his own business. “I probably wouldn’t do that because I’ve seen what it takes to open up a brewery and a distillery first-hand,” he said. “I would much rather be with the marketing part of it.”