When Mike Lincoln Jr., the owner and brewer at Noble Jay Brewing Co. in Niantic, was asked to make a beer in honor of U.S. airman John “Chappy” Chapman, the pressure was on.
Chapman, a Windsor Locks native and an Air Force technical sergeant, was killed while trying to save the lives of fellow U.S. soldiers in a mountaintop battle in Afghanistan in 2002. This past summer, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions, which took place while he was embedded with a SEAL Team 6 unit.
As Lincoln began to explore making a beer to honor the legacy of the fallen airman, he knew the last thing he wanted to do was associate Chapman’s name with a crummy beer.
Chappy’s Red Valor Lager was released in November to coincide with Veterans Day. A far cry from crummy, the beer is smooth and delicious, easy drinking with low bitterness. It is made with pilsner malt from Thrall Family Malt in Windsor, which borders Chapman’s hometown, and Connecticut-grown hops. Fifteen percent of sales from the beer are donated to the Combat Control Association and Foundation.
“It was kind of crazy that we made this beer; we’re one of the smallest breweries in the state,” Lincoln says as he pours a pint of Chappy’s.
Noble Jay opened in August. It is named after Lincoln’s mom, Patricia Jay, who died when he was a baby (“Patricia” is derived from the Latin word for “noble”). It is one of Connecticut’s many young breweries. It is also the state’s only brewery specializing in lagers, which use a different type of yeast than ales and ferment for almost twice as long. The resulting beers are often, but not always, cleaner tasting with less bitterness.
“I’m not saying anything bad about IPAs, but I didn’t want to make another IPA and compete with all the great IPAs that are out there,” Lincoln says.
Though Lincoln is not himself a veteran, he has family members who are, and it is clear the moment you walk into the taproom that this brewery supports those who have served. There are fliers for free acupuncture treatments offered by the Warriors for Warriors, an East Lyme-based charity. Flags representing various branches of the military brought in by patrons line the walls. Charitable giving is also integral to the brewery; each month it designates one of its tap lines the Noble Tap, and partners with a local nonprofit to donate 10 percent of sales from that tap that month.
Prior to opening the brewery, Lincoln was an oceanographic technician. While working on Block Island’s offshore wind farm in 2016, he met and became friends with Steve Moran, who is also from Connecticut and is a former Air Force combat controller who knew Chapman.
As the brewery came together, Moran suggested that Lincoln brew a beer in honor of Chapman. Lincoln liked the idea, and when they got the blessing from Chapman’s family, Lincoln began working on it. He asked Moran what kind of beer Chapman drank. Lincoln says Moran responded, “I don’t know, man, it was the early ’90s and we all drank shit beer.”
Lincoln and Moran settled on a red lager because combat controllers wear a red beret. Lincoln says he needs to work on getting the red color more pronounced in future batches. But he has definitely nailed the flavor.
After releasing the beer, which is available primarily at the brewery, Lincoln received a warm thank you note from Chapman’s mother, Terry Chapman, who no longer lives in Connecticut. For the beer’s official release party in November, high school classmates of Chapman came from Windsor Locks, as did many who served with Chapman from neighboring states. They were all there to toast the memory of the fallen hero. Now they could do that with a beer brewed in his honor.