For local brewmaster Donnie Eldridge, crafting new beers is more than just a matter of taste — it’s a testament to his patriotism.
Eldridge, who owns Emersumnice Brewery, can often be found concocting different flavors of frothy beverages in the back of the restaurant, located in the heart of Owasso’s newly developed Redbud District.
The long hours spent laboring over the microbrewery’s large, stainless steel fermenters since opening last March has led the 50-year-old retired National Guardsman to create several original recipes, including a few that recognize the men and women of the military.
Such is the case with his latest conception, RED RIVER 44 Double IPA, which he introduced to the community in mid-March.
The new beer pays tribute to seven Guardsmen, four from Texas and three from Oklahoma, who died after their Boeing H-47D Chinook helicopter crashed in Sept. 2008 while on course to Balad Air Base in Iraq during a mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We wanted to do something to honor their memories,” said Eldridge, who made two overseas deployments while enlisted in the Guard, “and I felt the best way of doing that was to be able to come up with a beer that had a lot of symbology of those guys in that flight.”
Eldridge came up with the idea while crafting a new seasonal recipe alongside fellow Guardsman and brewmaster Frank Montgomery. The duo began experimenting with different ingredients until they discovered the ideal blend that would epitomize the sacrifices of the seven fallen soldiers.
They started with a Double IPA to represent the bitter fate of Red River 44, and then added chinook hops for the aircraft the Guardsmen piloted, Amarillo hops for their Texas connection and warrior hops for the bravery they demonstrated.
“It just clicked,” Eldridge said. “For this beer to turn out as well as it has — and has just been hugely popular with all of our IPA fans — it has just really made me and Frank extremely proud of the efforts that we went through to make this beer.”
Eldridge presented the RED RIVER 44 Double IPA to close friends and family of the seven soldiers at a special ceremony last month. He added the new beverage to the brewery’s permanent lineup of available beers, which includes another military-inspired recipe, Lunar Ops Stoute, named for the Lords of Darkness UH-60 Helicopter Assault Unit.
In addition to the tap, Eldridge honors local veterans by offering them a free lunch on the first Tuesday of every month, where they can congregate and share their experiences.
“It’s been really rewarding,” Eldridge said of seeing his fellow service men and women honored through his efforts. “This (RED RIVER 44 Double IPA) is just a way that I wanted to come out and say, ‘Let’s not let these guys’ loss — these families’ loss that they had — go in vain.’”