View Full Version : A toast to the warriors

09-06-03, 05:42 AM
A toast to the warriors

By MATTHEW DOLAN, The Virginian-Pilot
September 4, 2003

NORFOLK -- Shipmate, this Spaten's for you!

Well, maybe not every one of you.

Thanks to the generosity of one of the world's oldest breweries, U.S. sailors who fought in the war against Iraq will receive 600 cases of the German lager.

Here's the rub: The average sailor is under 20. Legal drinking age is 21.

This makes no sense to Louis Sieb, president of Spaten North America.

``I had no thought on that when I came up with the idea,'' he said Wednesday, standing on a loading dock at Norfolk Naval Station.

``They give up everything, right? They put their lives on the line, right? And they can't drink beer?''

Sieb shrugged.

``Still, a good thing, I think.''

It's a little odd hearing Sieb speak about his Bavarian brew with a Brooklyn accent. But Sieb's family -- his parents are German -- have been American distributors since the 1950s. He has been with Spaten since 1964.

Sieb, a Korean War veteran, wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to get the ball rolling. In the end, Spaten donated 600 cases each to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Navy officials said that works out to about two-thirds of a beer for every deployed sailor.

``You don't need to drink more than one or two,'' Sieb said. ``You won't appreciate it after that.''

A reviewer on Beeradvocate.com lavished praise on the lager with a ``glistening golden straw colour (that) holds a decent white lace for some time.'' Its taste? ``Fluffy crispness lifts the tongue to feel all of the tiny bubbles, a mild biscuity malt shows some grape tannin off.''

The Web site recommends pairing it with bratwurst and German potato salad.

On Wednesday morning, Sieb watched as smiling sailors loaded up their rations of his prized bottled beer.

``So what am I going to say, that this beer is not my favorite?'' Sieb said. ``No, that's not going to happen.''

He used words like ``so tasty,'' ``full-bodied'' and ``no aftertaste.''

``The monks back in the 1400s. They were . . . what do you call it when they don't eat?''


``Yes, Lent. They didn't eat. So they made good beer.''

But Sieb admitted concern about some of the Navy's plans.

``This beer, it's fresh,'' he said, pointing to a pallet stacked 5 feet high with shrink-wrapped Spaten bottled in June. ``Someone said they wanted to save it for a Christmas party? No, that won't work.

``Please, drink it when it's fresh.''

The day wasn't complete without a plaque presentation and photo op.

``Why don't we put the beer in the background?'' offered Capt. Terry McKnight, commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge.

Sieb gave him the plaque. The captain and the beermeister shook hands.

``Thank you,'' McKnight said. ``I know beer is very popular among the sailors.''

The Kearsarge had only one ``beer day'' during its deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom. On that day, the crew traditionally gets two beers apiece after at least 45 continuous days at sea. Otherwise, deployments are alcohol-free. ``We had American beer,'' McKnight said.

But his sailors would have no problem drinking brew from a country that was less than supportive of their war efforts. Germany did not join the coalition forces earlier this year for the invasion of Iraq and continues to keep its troops out of the country.

McKnight was unfazed. ``A cold beer,'' he said, ``is a cold beer.''

Actually, Sieb suggests serving it slightly warmer than icy American style.

At least one ship turned down the gift. A Navy spokesperson said that the ship's command didn't think the alcoholic present sent the right signal to the crew.

That didn't dissuade Donald C. Bennett, a selectee for chief petty officer. He pulled in around 11 a.m. to claim four cases -- 96 bottles -- for his 140 submariners on the Montpelier.

His sub had one beer day during the war. Bennett laughed when asked what kind it was.

``We got French beer from an Italian destroyer,'' he said. ``We're happy to drink it all.''

Reach Matthew Dolan at matthew.dolan@pilotonline.com or at 446-2322.


Class Gordon Hemphill accepts a case of Spaten beer Wednesday at the Norfolk Naval Station before loading it onto a van bound for the Bataan. The beer company wanted to thank the military personnel who fought in Iraq. Photo by Bill Tiernan / The Virginian-Pilot.



09-07-03, 05:58 PM
Great post,enjoyed reading it . SEmper Fi- Billsan

09-07-03, 08:05 PM
That was posted here by the dDrifter some time ago