LADORA, Iowa — Leslie Gannon still keeps a journal belonging to her father, Robert Ahrens, a B-24 co-pilot in World War II.
“This is where his prisoner of war camp was in Barth, near the Baltic Sea,” said Gannon, showing us pages from the journal in Iowa City’s Legion Post No. 17 on Wednesday. “B-24 pilots only had to fly 35 missions; he was shot down on his 21st, and he was taken prisoner of war the last 10 months.”
She recently told her father’s story to Dmitri Makedonsky, who was already kicking around the idea of creating a new brew.
“I’ve always held veterans issues close to me and close to my heart, and I thought, why don’t I come up with a beer company that pays tribute to veterans?” said Makedonsky.
Through some trial and error — and a lot of research — he came up with the name “Old Legion Brewing Company.” Featured on the first batch of Big Gun Lager is Robert Ahrens of Jewell, Iowa.
Makedonsky said he dedicated the brewery’s name to the Old Legion post in Ladora, and he’s planning on featuring more veterans on the side of the can in the future.
“Not necessarily World War II veterans,” said Makedonsky, “veterans from all conflicts.”
Makedonsky — also a veteran — said part of the proceeds from his sales will go to groups supporting veterans.
“Right now, we’re affiliated with an organization called “Paws and Effect,” which is a service dog organization based out of central Iowa, and they provide service and therapy dogs to veterans that are suffering from disabilities,” Makedonsky explained.
He describes Big Gun Lager as a nice, easy-drinking summertime beer. A “no-nonsense” drink he thinks guys like Robert Ahrens probably would have enjoyed.
“It’s pretty cool,” Gannon said, smiling. “I mean, I’m proud of him anyway, but it’s just really neat to be able to remember him in that way.”
For more information on Old Legion Brewing Company and Big Gun Lager, you can visit www.oldlegionbrewing.com.