‘Patriot Pilsner,’ a 9/11 anniversary brew, to help pay for memorial
Nick Fertig was a junior at Bel Air High School when the planes hit the towers.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks moved the teenager, who would later co-found Baltimore’s Full Tilt Brewing, to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he spent six years stationed on a submarine based in Norfolk, Virginia. Twenty years later, he still remembers the emotions he felt on that day.
“I got real fired up,” Fertig, 37, said. “I had to enter the delayed entry program because I still had a year left of high school.”
So he was immediately interested when Chuck Ritz, co-founder of the Hope and Peace Foundation, pitched the idea of brewing a beer to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and help fund an educational memorial in Middle River to those who were killed.
Their collaboration, the Patriot Pilsner, a 5.6% ABV beer, will be released at a 5 p.m. Wednesday event at the Mid-Govans brewery on York Road in Baltimore. Full Tilt will give $1 for each pint and four-pack of 16-oz cans sold of the new beer to benefit a new memorial for those who died in the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing war.
The Hope and Peace Foundation, based in Parkville, has organized annual 9/11 memorial motorcycle rides, put out flags along Putty Hill Avenue and hosted candlelight vigils for the past decade, Ritz said.
Its new memorial, which will open 11 a.m. Sunday at 1320 Innovation Street in Middle River, contains a 20-minute video of survivor and first responder interviews, artifacts and photos from Ground Zero, and “a lot of the stories people may not be aware of,” Ritz said.
It also will include biographical details about some of the U.S. troops who died in the 20 years of war that followed, he said.
The memorial — located in a 12,000-square-foot Middle River warehouse on loan from St. John Properties — also will house a rolling memorial Ritz created for parades and educational workshops, he said. The exhibits focus more on the heroic efforts to save lives than on the attacks themselves, he said.
“We want to share the stories, but we’re not focusing on the terrorist aspect,” Ritz said. “We’re trying to encourage people to be better Americans and unite once again through stories of humanity and compassion and determination and faith.”
Fertig, who was born in Las Vegas but grew up in Hanover and Bel Air, acknowledged the difficulty of promoting a more somber event than the brewery’s usual beer releases. Heated emotions over the deaths of
13 U.S. troops in a bombing amid the pullout from Afghanistan further complicated matters.
“We’re trying to be mindful,” Fertig said. “While I think the focus really should be and is, in my mind, on the 69 Marylanders that died in 9/11 [and those that died in the war], people are pretty upset with how things went down.”
The brewery’s online listing for Wednesday’s event said it will “honor and remember those lives lost 20 years ago.” The beer is advertised as a “9/11 20th anniversary tribute.”
Fertig hopes people come to try the new pilsner, “a very good, end-of-summer beer” that should enjoy widespread appeal, he said. It’s packaged in a 9/11-themed can bearing American flag stars and stripes, an outline of the twin towers in the New York City skyline, and the words “WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”
“It’s going to touch a lot of different drinkers out there,” he said. “It’s something that I think everybody can appreciate. Certain times, you want to brew a fruited sour or a hazy IPA. But everybody across the board likes a nice, easy-drinking, crisp pilsner.”
Ritz remembered hearing someone say, after a 10th anniversary event, that it was time to “move on” from Sept. 11. He agreed, but he still dedicated the past decade to keeping alive the memories of those who died.
While not all are old enough to drink the new pilsner, some 70 million Americans are too young to remember 9/11 — a statistic that troubles Ritz.
“We’re trying to inspire the next generation to be involved,” he said, “so when those who witnessed the attack are gone, the next generation and future generations will continue to keep the promise to never forget.”