Firefighters cheered as the first glass of Last Alarm IPA was poured at Iron Hill Brewery in Wilmington Tuesday.
Iron Hill created the beer in honor of fallen firefighters Captain Christopher Leach and Lieutenant Jerry Fickes. Wilmington Firefighters Leach and Fickes were killed in a Canby Park row home fire on September 24, 2016.
"Cheers, to Chris and Jerry, Ardy and Brad! Cheers!" Firefighters raised their glasses, toasting Leach and Fickes, as well as the two injured firefighters still recovering at Crozer, senior firefighter Ardythe Hope and firefighter Brad Speakman.
Iron Hill invited firefighters Joe Leonetti, executive board member of the Wilmington Fire Fighters Association, and Stephen Facciolo to help out when the head brewer made the beer.
"It was honestly one of the best experiences I've ever had," said Facciolo. "These guys are doing an honor for us in honoring our two brothers that sacrificed themselves. It was a neat experience learning how the beer was brewed and just to honor Chris and Jerry in our own little way."
"It was a neat experience. I never got to brew beer before," said Leonetti. "Firemen like to drink light beers, we came here with that in mind."
Iron Hill is donating 20 percent of all sales Tuesday to Leach and Fickes' families. The company will also give $1 for every pint of Last Alarm sold to the Wilmington Fire Department until it runs out of the beer. Last Alarm IPA is only available at Iron Hill's Wilmington location.
"Which will go to help the two line of duty deaths and our two people still fighting in the hospital at the burn center," said Leonetti. "We didn't reach out to these guys. The only fundraiser Wilmington Firefighter's Association is doing is the GoFundMe. Everything else you see people contacted us and it means a lot. I don't even know how to put into words the thanks that we can express that people come to us and want to help us out."
A lot of firefighters turned out Tuesday at lunchtime to honor and drink to their friends.
"This is our brotherhood. These are the guys that we gather with all the time and gathered with Chris and Jerry," said Facciolo.
Leonetti and Facciolo reminisced about Leach and Fickes.
"I was fortunate enough to have captain, now Captain, Leach as my boss at Engine 6 for 7 months this year and knew him through the fire department before that--probably the best boss I've ever had. Just a fun loving guy, loved doing his job. He was a magnanimous man. He was just incredible," said Facciolo. "And Jerry was someone I have known ever since I got on, but I was part of his relief crew in the morning. Had coffee with him, crossword puzzles, and just one of the greatest people I've ever known."
"I went through the academy with Chris, and I've known him for ten years before that," said Leonetti. "So, I've known Chris for a long time, I graduated academy with him, and we've been lifelong friends. Jerry came on a year after me and I did my first seven years in the fire department with Jerry Fickes. Outstanding guy we had a lot of fun times together. So, they were both real dear friends."
Last Alarm IPA is a lighter beer, a nod to the firefighters' preference for light beer.
"The beer is fantastic. They call it a session IPA," said Facciolo. "All I know is it tastes good. It's easy to drink and it's fantastic."
Would Leach and Fickes like it?
"Chris would. Well maybe Chris wouldn't, I'm not real sure," laughed Leonetti. "Like I said, he's a Miller Lite guy...it's delicious, but it might be a little heavy for Chris. And Jerry, he wasn't a big drinker. We had fun together. We went on fishing trips. He might crack one or two. He would still be here with us today, if it wasn't him, hanging out with us and supporting the cause."
"(Chris) might like it. I know Chris really stuck to the normal kinds of beers, he wasn't in to the crafty," said Bruce Schweiger, president of the Wilmington Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 1590. "But I know Jerry was at one time a bit of a brewer himself. So, I know he really would have enjoyed it."
Friends agree both Leach and Fickes would appreciate having a beer brewed in their honor.
"I can only imagine how happy they would be," said Leonetti. "I know they're up there looking down on us smiling. If it was different shoes, and we had two other people, or three other people, or anybody, even if we're just helping somebody out, they would be here to help."
A group of friends coming together to remember their fallen brothers.
"They were two of the best that we've had and they will never be forgotten. Not as long as I'm on this Earth," said Facciolo.
"No, we'll never forget those two guys--that's for sure. We won't forget their families," said Schweiger.
Iron Hill brewers expect Last Alarm IPA to run out more quickly than other beers they've brewed--possibly within two-and-a-half weeks.