An American Belgian beer?

Bastogne War Museum - Casques militaires.
"He then decided to clean his helmet with a little snow and then fill it with beer. He runs back to the church, under artillery shellfire."
Vincent Speranza
Vincent Speranza

Vincent Speranza, historical veteran

Vincent Speranza was a young replacement who joined the 101st Airborne Division at Mourmelon in November 1944. He was assigned to the 501st Parachutist Inf. as a machine gunner. At the age of 19, he left with his unit for Bastogne, where he participated in the terrible Battle of the Bulge. In November 1945, he was demobilized and returned to the United States. Traumatized by his experiences as a soldier, he didn’t talk about his memories, except as a history teacher.

However, after a meeting with an American citizen of Belgian origin who encouraged him to return to Bastogne one day, he decided to undertake this journey to trace his past. In 2009, during his trip to Bastogne, he discovered that a page of history had been written and that he was the author. One fine day in September, Vincent, accompanied by his daughter, met Johnny Bona from the 101st Airborne Museum.

The origins of Airborne Beer

After explaining who he was, Johnny Bona invited him to return to where his unit was deployed near Mont (eastern part of the Bastogne perimeter). Upon arriving on the spot, Vincent found without hesitation the place where he had remained for more than one month in a cold foxhole. After a long moment of recollection on the spot, Vincent suggested that they have lunch together. So many memories come back to him, and suddenly he told the following story:

One day in December, his unit was in position in of the village of Mont opposite Neffe, was bombarded by German artillery. Several pieces of shrapnel hit his comrade in arms in the leg, and Vincent was in charge of evacuating him to the first aid post deployed in the St Pierre Church. Two days later, Vincent had to go to Bastogne to get radio batteries. He took the opportunity to visit his friend Joe Wyllis. He entered the church and was struck by a desolate sight; the wounded were lying on the floor, without medicine, shivering with cold, their wounds bandaged with pieces of torn sheets. When Vincent saw his friend, he asked him to find something to drink. Vincent answered: ” Joe, where do you want me to find something to drink in this destroyed city ? I’ll see what I can do”.

Vincent left the church and went up the main street towards the square. After walking a few dozen meters, he passed a small tavern significantly damaged by the horrors of war. He entered and discovered a desolate sight; the windows were broken, the furniture was broken, everything was scattered. He then noticed that a beer pump was still intact and working. Finding no container, he took off his steel helmet, cleaned it roughly with a little snow and filled it with beer, and returned to the church. His friend was delighted, and many other wounded were happy to have a few swigs of beer. Vincent went back to the tavern and came back soon after holding his helmet again filled with beer. As soon as he entered the church, he met a doctor who gave him a severe dressing-down for having given beer to wounded people who had been hit in the chest and stomach. Vincent left the place without asking for help and returned to his unit with the radio batteries.

A pleasant memory in Belgium

Vincent did not know about the existence of this “Airborne” beer brewed in the region and whose label on the bottle represents a parachutist wearing a helmet filled with beer.

J.Bona invited him to come the next day to his place and said nothing about this famous “Airborne” beer. So it was a total surprise when J.Bona arrived with a tray filled with a few bottles and a few “mugs” in the shape of the helmet. Sixty-five years after this terrible battle, Vicent Speranza knew that he had left a mark and a beautiful memory!

“Brewed according to the recipe of the Lamborelle brewery, Airborne Beer will take you back to 1944. This beer, brewed according to the Belgian tradition, comes in a blonde and a double brown version. It is unfiltered and served in 33cl bottles or in a replica of the World War II helmet cup.” From the official Airborne Beer website.

Vincent Speranza holding bottles of Airborne Beer.
© Airborne Beer Facebook

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