Merrill brewery honors local fallen soldier - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Merrill brewery honors local fallen soldier


Merrill (WAOW) -- Dozens packed the Sawmill Brewing Company in Merrill Tuesday evening to honor a fallen soldier. The brewery unveiled a beer named after the truck of Sgt. Ryan Jopek.

"I think it's a pretty great honor," said Brian Jopek, Ryan's dad. "He loved that truck, that truck was his baby."

In 2006, Jopek died in Iraq while he was deployed. He was just 20 years old at the time.

Deployed with him was Chris Burger, who now works at Sawmill Brewing Company.

"It all starts in 2005 when our unit deployed out of Merrill," said Burger.  "We lost a soldier and friend on our last mission over there. I started brewing here about six months ago and right away I thought about wanting to name a beer after him."

The brewery named the beer 'Walter Amber Ale' after Jopek's truck named Walter.

"When he got home on leave the first place he went was to the garage to get in his truck," said Tracy Jopek, Ryan's mom.  "It was everything."

Old friends and family shared memories of Ryan while they sipped on the new beer.

"He was one of the kindest people I had every known," said Tyler Drake, a friend of Ryan's. "He just really cared about you as a person."

Now, Ryan will forever be remembered at the Sawmill Brewing Company with the new beer.

"It is a thrill to know that there are people out there who haven't forgotten, it's important to keep that memory alive," said Brian.

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