O-linemen team with Arizona brewery in creation that honors Pat Tillman

GILBERT, Ariz. -- When Jon Buford and Pat Ware, the co-founders of Arizona Wilderness Brewing, were thinking about what kind of beer they should make in collaboration with a handful of Arizona Cardinals offensive linemen that would help benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation, they wanted to go big.

Real big. Like offensive linemen big.

The finished product was the O-Line Triple IPA, a beer with a 12 percent alcohol content that was the result of 42 varieties of hops -- in honor of Tillman's number at Arizona State -- from across the world. They used Citra and Mosaic from the United States, Galaxy from Australia, Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand, Sorachi Ace from Japan and Mandarina Bavaria from Germany, among others.

"Forty-two hops is insane," Buford said. "It is insane. The fact that I don't think anyone has done that makes me excited because it's not about Arizona Wilderness. It's about the Pat Tillman name -- the foundation name -- so we really want you to associate that with the craziness that we're doing.

"When you get to 42, you can't go all one type of hop. We're choosing some European hops that will kind of go very uniquely with these American, juicy IPA hops. But in the end, we're going to brew really clean, really exciting beer."

Ware, an Arizona State graduate, knew people who were friends with Tillman in college. They told him he was a fun guy to hang out with. Buford believes that Tillman -- the former Cardinals safety who left the NFL to join the U.S. Army in 2002 and was killed in action two years later -- would have enjoyed the O-Line Triple IPA.

"It's meant to be a statement," Buford said.

So how will it turn out?

Nobody knows. Buford has an idea, but free-agent offensive lineman Earl Watford, who made a special trip to Arizona to attend Tuesday's brewing, thinks it'll be "amazing ... as everything the guys do here."

Watford, who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2013, has been the link connecting the brewery with the players. He and a few teammates went to Arizona Wilderness for lunch a few years ago and Buford recognized them. Watford said he and Buford struck a friendship that has grown in the past few years "into kind of a family."

Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer, an avid home brewer, met Buford and Ware through Watford and struck up his own friendship with the two. When the offensive linemen come to Arizona Wilderness, the conversation typically revolves around beer, food, cars and wine, Buford said. Not much football is discussed.

The relationship between Veldheer and Arizona Wilderness took another step a few years ago when he brought in some of his home-brewed beer, which impressed Buford and Ware. They offered to make it in a larger batch and serve it on tap. From there, Veldheer and Arizona Wilderness have relied on each other to help out with various charitable causes beyond supporting the Tillman Foundation, Buford said.

On Tuesday, when the O-Line Triple IPA was brewed, Veldheer and Watford brought fellow offensive linemen Evan Boehm, A.Q. Shipley, John Wetzel and Will Holden. They drank beer and devoured a double peanut butter and jalapeno jelly burger with cheddar cheese and bacon.

This will be the third year that a group of Cardinals offensive linemen collaborate with Arizona Wilderness on a beer to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation. Their goal is to raise $10,000. The beer will be released April 21, the same day as Pat's Run, a 4.2-mile road race through Tempe, Arizona, that also honors Tillman.

Two years ago, Marie Tillman, Pat's widow, wrote Buford and Ware a letter thanking them for their donation and sharing her opinion that Tillman would've enjoyed the collaboration.

"That's all we needed to know that this does honor his legacy, not just for the patriot that he was but for the human that he was," Buford said.

Helping raise money for the Tillman Foundation has been "awesome," Veldheer said.

"He's a hero," Veldheer said. "And everybody especially in the state of Arizona -- pretty much throughout the United States -- knows who Pat Tillman is and what he's all about. The foundation is really cool because it allows veterans to continue education and to be set up for their time when the military's done, and to be able to help with that is great."