Archive for Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coffee corps: Retired Marine starts Lawrence-based line of brews to support military

Hank Salmans, CEO of Devil Dog Brew in Lawrence, is a retired Marine whose company was built to help support those in the military.

Hank Salmans, CEO of Devil Dog Brew in Lawrence, is a retired Marine whose company was built to help support those in the military.

September 23, 2009


Two of the varieties of Devil Dog Brew, the brainchild of Lawrence resident Hank Salmans. Salmans, a former Marine, donates a portion of his profits to charities associated with the Marine Corps.

Two of the varieties of Devil Dog Brew, the brainchild of Lawrence resident Hank Salmans. Salmans, a former Marine, donates a portion of his profits to charities associated with the Marine Corps.

Hank Salmans of Devil Dog Brew in Lawrence has set up displays of bagged coffee and carafes of fresh brew in various local locations to try to promote his product.

Hank Salmans of Devil Dog Brew in Lawrence has set up displays of bagged coffee and carafes of fresh brew in various local locations to try to promote his product.

Hank Salmans has always loved coffee. He loves it so much, in fact, that as a Marine stationed far from Lawrence, he strained grounds through a sock to get his fix.

Though he’s retired the sock-filter method, he’s kept his love of coffee and combined it with his love of the Marine Corps to create the Lawrence-based Devil Dog Brew.

“I’m very passionate about coffee, and I’m very passionate about the Marine Corps,” Salmans says. “It just seemed like a great match.”

Since its inception in 2007, Devil Dog Brew and its sister label, Sniper’s Brew, has been sold around the world, sponsored military-affiliated events and donated proceeds to charitable organizations benefiting military and law enforcement.

“If you serve in the Marine Corps for 21 years and you understand things like honor, courage and commitment, when you get out of the Marine Corps, how do you continue that feeling of doing something that’s a worthwhile endeavor, or a worthwhile pursuit?” Salmans says. “Whatever you do, I think you have to have passion.”

Barons Brothers

Salmans retired from the corps in 2005 after a career that took him around the world, saw him reach the rank of major and become what the Marines call a “mustang” — a soldier who has been both an officer and an enlisted member of the military.

He ended his career as the company commander and executive officer of a battalion of about 800 Marines and their families. When he retired and moved back to Lawrence and his family, the first thing he thought of was how he could help the people he commanded during his former life.

So the giving started in 2007. That’s when Salmans teamed with his adoptive brother, J.R. Lewis, to form Barons Brothers, an export/import company designed to buy coffee. The original goal for the company was to supply coffee to military bases in the commissary system while giving a portion of the proceeds to military charities. Members of both the Lewis family and Salmans’ birth family have a long history in the military, and the family is proud of its servicemen.

With the family in mind, Salmans and Lewis cooked up Devil Dog Brew, coming up with a name that nodded to the Marines, nicknamed “teufel hunden,” or devil dogs, by the Germans during World War II. With the company set up, beans in from Panama — where Salmans was stationed and has family — a roaster in place and flavors determined, the company was ready hit military bases. But there was a snag in the company’s initial goals — rules stipulate that a brand must be an established product on the civilian commercial market before landing on base.

So the Devil Dog and Sniper’s brews hit the retail market online and in stores, including Checkers Foods, 2300 La., which is owned by their parents, Jim and Linda Lewis. Checkers sells 600 bags a month, the average order at is $59 each, and both labels have just been picked up for distribution by Kansas City-based Paris Brothers.

“I told Hank that I thought we’d be well-received in the store, and I was right. It surprised my brother just a bit because originally he thought the appeal would be greatest with communities by military bases,” Lewis says.

This year, coffee lovers on base are finally getting Devil Dog Brew available there, though it’s not in the full commissary system yet. The brew has been picked up by a military distribution company and is available both at private on-base stores and at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Giving back

Devil Dog Brew has been able to donate and support military charities and organizations, including military community heritage Web site; the Marine Birthday Ball in Baghdad, Iraq; the Jacksonville (Fla.) Marine Corps Half Marathon, which gives money to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund; and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington.

Salmans says the amount given varies.

“Right now we don’t have a percentage, and part of that is because when we started, we were capitalized by my brother and father investing in the company. And we knew that we could donate monies immediately without even having money generated from the coffee,” Salmans says. “We determined, because we wouldn’t know what kind of flexibility we’d have as we built the company, that we would leave the percentage kind of open and we’d donate where we could and we had opportunities to.”

Ideally, he’d like the company to be “the Red Bull of coffee” — where Devil Dog’s muscled, tattooed mascot is recognizable around the world, and military and law enforcement personnel are benefiting everywhere.

“I think as a capitalist, the more money I am able to make and produce, the more people I can help,” Salmans says. “I would rather donate a portion of proceeds to somebody rather than just donate product because they get actively involved in promoting the brand, and I get stronger and can do more. It’s almost like teaching a person to fish. I can either feed them for a day, or I can feed them for a lifetime.”



Got Motto?! BBQ chicken

12 pieces chicken — 6 legs, 6 thighs

1 1/2 teaspoon oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

3/4 cup Devil Dog Brew Gunny’s Motto Supremo, freshly brewed coffee (not grounds)

Heat oil in saucepan. Sauté onion and garlic, then add Devil Dog Brew coffee and simmer a bit. Add remaining ingredients and simmer awhile until it thickens. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool sauce completely and pour over chicken. Coat well and refrigerate overnight.

Get your grill going to medium heat. Remove chicken from sauce.

Bring remaining sauce to a boil and then simmer.

Throw down chicken on grill and baste with simmering sauce.

Grill chicken to 165 degrees and enjoy.

— Recipe from

Cowboy Coffee Beef Stew

22-ounce lean steak or stew meat cuts into cubes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Medium yellow onions (to taste), sliced thinly

1 1/2 bell peppers (green, yellow or red) sliced medium to thick

1/2 jalapeno pepper, sliced thin (optional)

1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes, drained

1 garlic clove chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons dry white wine

6 tablespoons freshly brewed Devil Dog Brew coffee (Gunny’s Motto Supremo recommended)

Salt and pepper to taste

Brew two cups of Devil Dog Brew coffee. Set aside 6 tablespoons and drink the rest.

Cut steak into cubes, slice the onions and peppers, chop the garlic and set all ingredients aside. Heat the olive oil in a good cast-iron skillet and then add the steak. Stir frequently and brown all sides evenly. Use a slotted spoon to drain the steak while removing and putting in a bowl. Cover the steak to keep warm.

Add the onions, peppers and garlic to the skillet containing the remaining oil drippings and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until all are semi-softened. Sprinkle in the flour stirring continuously for a few minutes. Gradually stir in the wine and coffee and then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Gently add the cooked steak to the skillet, salt and pepper to taste, cover and reduce heat to simmer for an hour or until steak is tender.

— Recipe from

Devil Dog Brew Yankee Doodle Mocha Brownies

2 tablespoons Devil Dog Brew Yankee Doodle coffee grounds (pulverize grounds or fine-grind espresso style)

3 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 1/2 cups pre-sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup softened butter, room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Grease a deep 9-by-12 pan, set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, blend the melted chocolate with the prepared coffee and set aside to cool.

In a second bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.

In another larger bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy (a rubber spatula works well) and then add the sugar a 1/2 cup at a time. Add the eggs and then blend well. Stir the Devil Dog Brew Yankee Doodle coffee mixture into the butter mixture and then add the flour mixture to that. If using, stir in the nuts. Mix well.

Pour batter into the pan. Bake 30-40 minutes or until done — use toothpick to test center — it should come out clean.

— Recipe from


wisenup21 8 years, 7 months ago

Semper Fi. this is great. one of my sons is a marine and i am extremely proud of him, and I have a great affection for the corps. i will be looking forward to trying your brew, and switching from good old folders and now my habit will help to support a great cause. thank you for your service and your great capitalism.

Kawatchi 8 years, 7 months ago

"Marines, nicknamed “teufel hunden,” or devil dogs, by the Germans during World War II."

Actually, it was World War I from Belleau Wood.

madameX 8 years, 7 months ago

I've been buying this coffee for a while now. I picked up the first bag because I thought it was a good business concept (my brother's in the military) but I kept buying it because it's really good coffee. The whole bean espresso is my favorite.

Danimal 8 years, 7 months ago

Hank is a great guy, and sells some good coffee. Semper Fi Hank.

findaway 8 years, 7 months ago

The coffee is great, hope everything goes well for you!

lori 8 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps, Marion, the Americans first picked up on the term when it was used in dative case, as that would add an "n" onto the end, wouldn't it? I'm also guessing that it was a term that was first heard rather than seen, and that could also account for the improper grammar and spelling. As you know, spoken German, particularly dialects, often drop letters within the words and at endings. That, I suppose, could account for the incorrect usage of the German.

KneeDeepintheHooah 8 years, 7 months ago

We are an Army family by far and large, but our love for Hank proves that "military family" goes beyond the branch and is found in the love we share for family, Country, and freedom.

This is one business, product and businessman I can stand behind 100% with no reservations. Great service, the best coffee and the most beloved Marine we know. :)

lori 8 years, 7 months ago

Marion--You're probably right. I looked around a little further and now see that there is no known German reference.

I'm okay with that, though. Devil Dogs sounds good, whether there is any fact to the origin of the name or not. Think of it as Marine mythology, based in some fact, some fiction, as most mythology is.

gccs14r 8 years, 7 months ago

I can't imagine that tanking up on coffee does a sniper's accuracy any favors, though.

Bob Forer 8 years, 7 months ago

Never had the opportunity to serve, Hank, but had I, I am sure I would have been honored to serve with men like you. An enlisted man and an officer? Very impressive.

And for the misinformed naysayers who believe the Marine mystique is manufactured, Madison Avenue hype, I suggest you read "Making the Corps." A great read about a grand institution--The United States Marine Corps.

Thanks for serving, Hank, and best of luck in your civilian life.

Henry Salmans 8 years, 7 months ago

Wisenup21 – You have every right to be proud of your son, obviously I share your affection for the Corps. Thank you for the kind words and support, I look forward to hearing back from you. Drop me a personal note via DevilDogBrew and I’ll send a personal note to your son.

Kawatchi – great catch, WWI Belleau Wood, Semper Fi, Hank

madameX – I love grinding the whole beans in the morning and making a fresh cappuccino, Colombian Supremo is my favorite but I love a little variety from time to time hence our flavors. Give your brother my best and thank him for me for his service. What Branch of Service is he in?

Boris – I’ve been greeted here in Lawrence with open arms, and that holds true around most of the country. When I talk to the Viet Nam veterans I know there’s still some sadness about how they we’re received. My experience has been quite different and I’m extremely grateful for the support and respect I’ve seen towards our military men and women.

Danimal – Thanks for the shout out. And Semper Fi!

Marion – I think getting folks interested in history is a good thing, you’ve started some dialog. Another facet is sometimes folks confuse the Devil Dog with our mascot the Bulldog we affectionately call Chesty. Our Devil Dog represents a kind of anthropomorphism, the Marine.

findaway – Thanks for the support!

lori – I just have to smile

RalphReed – Will do, and thanks!

KneeDeepintheHooah – Claire you’re the best. Thanks for the tremendous work you do for Veterans and Active Duty Military regardless of Branch of Service. And yes, I’m a pretty lovable Marine!

milehighhawk – just saying thanks, and a mile high at that.

gccs14r – That’s why you’ve got to try our “No Shaky Trigger Fingers” version when your on the range. Semper Fi, Hank

TheSychophant – thanks for the kind words, I was extremely blessed over 21 years.

With Utmost Respect ~ Semper Fi, Hank

democratsarefascists 8 years, 6 months ago

Personally, I'm religiously opposed to decaf, but I'll buy some of both to support such a noble pursuit.

I can always give it to my nephew.

He drinks decaf and lattes and all that girly stuff. ;-)

Henry Salmans 8 years, 6 months ago

Well our "No Shakes" Decaf is for those long days on the rifle range, especially during the winter season, where a hot cup of brew really hits the spot.

Semper Fi, Hank

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