AURORA | A.J. Boik wasn’t even old enough to buy a beer at a bar when, at 18, he was tragically killed 10 years ago in the Aurora theater shooting. Now, his loved ones are raising a glass in his memory.
Capital Six Brewing partnered with Boik’s family to brew “A.J.’s Haze,” a hazy IPA with a citrus aftertaste. A portion of the proceeds from each of the beers sold will go to the 7/20 Memorial Foundation.
Theresa Hoover, Boik’s mother, said that it felt like a fitting tribute after a decade marked by his absence.
“I think it’s best to do something good instead of making it a sad day,” she said July 14 at Capital Six Brewing, as friends and family gathered for the official public release of the brew.
In a way, she said it’s hard for her to process that so much time has passed since that day.
“Time has stood still,” she said. “It’s weird. A lot has happened in ten years but my heart still thinks it’s just happened.”
The beer will be on sale at an annual beer garden on Saturday, which will be held on the great lawn outside Aurora city hall from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. following an official reflection ceremony at 1:45 p.m.
Wristbands are $40 online or $45 at the door for unlimited beer tastings, and can be purchased online at 7-20memorial.org. Along with Six Capital over 20 other breweries will be participating this year, including Cerebral Brewing, Dry Dock and Peak View.
The collaboration for the beer came about after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May, which Hoover said really affected her.
Heather Dearman, the chairperson of the 7/20 Foundation and Hoover’s friend, was at Six Capital not long after the Texas shooting and got the urge to call Hoover and check up on her.
After they spoke and Hoover told her how she was doing, Dearman overheard one of the bartenders talking about brewing classes they offered, where patrons could learn how to make their own beer.
Dearman wondered if Six Capital would be interested in doing something similar as a fundraiser, and asked the bartender, who ran it by the bar’s owners.
“They all said yes without any hesitation,” Dearman said.
Six Capital’s location on Iliff Avenue was formerly occupied by Peak to Peak brewing, where the community gathered messages to be put into 83 canisters that were used in “Ascentiate,” the memorial sculpture created in honor of the victims.
Morgan Forsyth, Six Capital’s general manager, said the brewery wanted to “carry on the tradition” of working with the 7/20 Foundation.
Hoover and several of her family members came down to the brewery last month, where they got to learn about the brewing process and work with the brewers to shape the beer’s taste. She said it was one of the most fun days the family had had in a long time.
“You have to be a scientist to do this, it’s not just dudes in a garage,” she said of the brewing process. “It’s pretty cool to watch and actually be a part of.”
The ingredients were put into kegs and left to brew for several weeks. Once it was finished the family came back for a private tasting before the public launch.
A graphic artist friend of Hoover’s son Wil designed the logo, which is purple for A.J.’s favorite color.
That color is what initially drew Hoover and Dearman together. After the shooting, Boik’s family created purple wristbands with his name on it that many people in the community began wearing. Purple was also the favorite color of Dearman’s 6-year-old cousin Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who was killed in the shooting as well.
Dearman was wearing a purple wristband in honor of Veronica when Hoover approached her after the shooting, thinking she was wearing one of A.J.’s wristbands. The two bonded over their shared experience of losing a loved one and have been friends ever since, Dearman said. Their family members didn’t know each other in life but she likes to think of them together in Heaven.
“We always think of A.J. and Veronica as like best buds,” Dearman said.
Dearman and Hoover are both regulars at Six Capital and other breweries in town, where Hoover said she frequently runs into people who knew her son. A decade later, she said the tragedy is less fresh in her memory but the pain of his loss has not gone away.
“It’s good to be ten years out since I’ve grown, but it’s not really that much easier,” Hoover said. “I’ve just learned to live with it better.”