Kegs for brew named for fallen airmen tapped at two events

‘Jolly 51’ Crew Inspires IPA, Fundraising Drive

It’s like a toast that never ended.

The Sand City Brewing Company in Northport named a special beer in honor of Master Sergeant Christopher Raguso — The Sixth Wave — because his favorite beer was its Second Wave, and he died on his sixth tour of duty with six teammates from the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard. Then, the Sweet Water Brewing Company decided to brew a special craft beer in honor of not only Raguso, but his crew from the “Jolly 51,” as the HH-60 Pave Hawk Helicopter was nicknamed.

“It’s not going to be brewed again right now,” said Raguso’s brother, Marc, who specializes in craft and import beer for Manhattan Beer Distributors. “It’s almost tapped out.”

The beer was sold on a limited basis, with kegs tapped at two joint fundraisers, one in Northport, the other in Atlanta, to support the men’s families. The crew might have served as the inspiration for the limited-edition craft brew, Jolly Green IPA, a beer affixed with a label containing a green giant wearing clothes formed out of hops. But, that fundraising drive sparked a larger one, in which Sweet Water agreed to donate money from beer sold at military bases until the end of summer. The money will be donated to the families of the seven crew members from the Jolly 51.

In the spring, Marc was visiting Atlanta and in a conversation with Sweet Water’s chairman of the board, Freddy Bensch, told him how he was feeling down because he had lost his brother, and Bensch suggested they collaborate on a brew in honor of the crew. On the heels of that success, Bensch decided to dedicate $5 from every roughly $32 24-pack of beer sold at military bases.

“I think that my brother would be honored to think that this guy did this not only for him, but his crew,” Raguso said.

Raguso, who was a Fire Department of New York firefighter from Commack, along with Staff Sergeant Dashan Briggs, a volunteer firefighter from Westhampton Beach who grew up in Riverhead, Captain Andres O’Keefe of Center Moriches, and Captain Christopher Zanetis of Long Island City, were four of seven local airmen to die in March. Additional crew members, Sergeant William Posch and Staff Sergeant Carl Enis were from Florida, and Captain Mark Weber was from Colorado.

A fundraiser for the men will held by the FDNY Foundation on September 22 at the Boardy Barn in Hampton Bays, but don’t look for the special craft beer “Jolly Green IPA” to be there. There are only two kegs left from the original batch. Those looking for a taste might have to wait until next year’s Goose Fest 2019, which will be held on May 19 at the Hoyt Farm in Commack. There, a keg might just be cracked open in honor of Raguso, who served in Commack as a volunteer firefighter when he was off-duty.

peggy@indyeastend.com