Let's Play Beer!

photo by Peter Mitton
photo by Peter Mitton

Baseball season is here, and the whole country is getting ready for the marathon that comes with it. Every fan has some expectations that their team will be better than they were last year, hopefully making that ONE MOVE in the off season that is going to get them a ticket to the playoffs. All of us know that the season is long enough that a bad April can be made up with a great June, the All-Star game is a great time to try to turn it around, and you will know where your team is really headed when the trade deadline hits on July 31. We are all excited to see if we will be looking forward to drinking Oktoberfests to celebrate a great season, or drowning our sorrows in citrusy IPAs and shandys as our team slowly sinks to the bottom.

Beer and baseball just go together. Something about the warm sun and a cold beer is just what a fan needs to stay cool. Every team has its own character, and beers also have their own character, even within styles. Taste a porter, pale ale, or wheat beer from any brewery in the United States, and you will get a different experience depending on your location and the bar you are sitting at. Someone who really loves craft beer and baseball should come up with a fun list of beers to pair with their favorite team. Beers that reflect the character of the team, not just a great beer from every city.

Where to begin? Let’s start on the west coast, with the NL West:

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68): The Wolf Among Weeds IPA, by Golden Road Brewing, has some kick to it. The Dodgers, after being a dominant force in baseball and making it to the post season, revamped their whole team. It is an odd choice, but it could pay off if their pitching stays solid.

photo by Israel Beach
photo by Israel Beach

San Francisco Giants (88-74): While California has a big craft brewing scene, it is hard to ignore the granddaddy; Anchor Steam Beer. Much like this classic lager, the Giants cast a long shadow in their profession. They will be a contender for a playoff position, the big question will be which one.

San Diego Padres (77-85): Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA, much like the Padres, has been around for a while, but recently started to make waves with IPA drinkers. At least for those of us in the Midwest. The Padres made big offseason moves, and could make similar waves in the NL West.

Colorado Rockies (66-96): The Rockies should hope to follow Denver Beer Company’s example. They were the Colorado Brewery of the Year in the 2015 New York International Beer Competition, and their Incredible Pedal IPA took home a silver medal as an American Style IPA! They have the talent on offense to get the runs, but their pitching is suspect. That staff has to be very good, because Coors Field is a hitter’s paradise. A great season for them can get them to the Wild Card.

Arizona Diamondbacks (64-98): The Vanilla Porter from Sun Up Brewing is light for a porter and with a low ABV (5%), something you can drink all day. That may be helpful when watching the Diamondbacks this season. They may get some help from free agency signings and a healthier line up, but it may be a long summer in the desert.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals (90-72): St. Louis, and the Cardinals, has some foundations in a lager empire. That is NOT the one to recommend. Schlafly and their Summer Lager, with light hints of lemon and spice, is much more appropriate. They are the team to beat in the NL Central, and they have the talent to hold the crown.

Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74): East End Brewing uses Black Strap Molasses and brown sugar in their Black Strap Stout, which is as close as we can get to rum for the Bucs. Getting close this year is not going to be enough; they have proven they are serious contenders, and need to shoot for taking the division.

Milwaukee Brewers (82-80): Milwaukee’s beer roots swim in German heritage. Riverfront Brewery’s Riverwest Stein Beer amber lager leapt out at me as the right beer for the team. They came close last year, but a midseason swoon took them out of the running. A healthy team with fewer distractions can go a long way.

Cincinnati Reds (76-86): Fifty West’s Punch You In The EyePA (Gold Medal winner, Imperial IPA, 2015 New York International Beer Competition) is an aggressive double IPA with tons of flavor and a big ABV kick. In the NL Central, the Red Legs are hoping to get a big kick from their pitching, especially the bull pen, which was spotty last season. They have the aggressive bats to get the runs; the pitching has to keep those leads.

Chicago Cubs (73-89): This may be the year the revolution is coming. Revolution’s Anti-Hero IPA is perfect for the Cubs, because this may be the year they start to shake their “loveable loser” status. The made HUGE strides in the offseason, but this is a tough division. We’ll see if it is enough.

NL East

photo by M Glasgow
photo by M Glasgow

Washington Nationals (96-66):The Public, by D.C. Brau Brewing Company, is a delightful American pale ale whose hoppiness is balanced by a sweet malty backbone. The Nationals are also very well balanced, deep at every position and talented from top to bottom. Their weak division was a help last year; how will they fare if any of the East bounces back?

Atlanta Braves (79-83): Atalanta from Greek mythology is a huntress and warrior of some renown. From Orpheus Brewing, it is a plummy, tart saison. The Braves are going to want the hunting aspects of the great warrior to get their edge back and become the playoff contender we all know them to be.

New York Mets (79-83): Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace, a farmhouse saison with some zesty flavor and slightly grassy aroma, is perfect for summer in New York. The Mets are also hoping their aces in their pitching staff stay as sharp as they were last season. They have added more talent to their rotation, which should give their offense more support.

Miami Marlins (77-85): Not an enigma, but La Rubia by Wynwood Brewing is a light blonde ale that would be perfect for drinking while you wait out the season to see if the Marlins are riding high or swimming in the basement. They are a team that reinvents itself every season, and sometimes with great success.

Philadelphia Phillies (73-89): Grab a Brawler from Yardis Brewing and get out there! It is a low ABV English Mild, but you’ll need your wits about you get competitive in the National League. It was just a few short years ago the Phillies were expected to win the World Series. Now they are looking to just get out of the basement in the East.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels (98-64): Monkish Brewing’s Belgian strong dark ale Anomaly may have the right name for the Angels; partially because of the monk angle, partially because they have a shaky pitching staff. They have offense in spades, but as they discovered last year, silent bats are not much help in the playoffs.

Oakland Athletics (88-74): Have you seen that New Oakland Glow, the name of traditional pilsner brewed by Linden Street Brewery? It should also describe the way the A’s fans feel coming into the season. They are a team that is a perennial contender, mainly because their front office has a unique way to see talent.

Seattle Mariners (87-75): Fremont Brewing’s Summer Ale is sunshine in a bottle, with a lovely tangerine flavor to cut through the cloudy Pacific Northwest. The fate of the Mariners can also use a little of that sunshine. They are in a tough division, but have the talent to make a run for the crown. At least the talent to get a Wild Card slot.

Houston Astros (70-92): St. Arnold Brewing has a crisp kölsch in Fancy Lawnmower, a perfect pairing for listening to the game on a warm Texas day. Considering Houston did not do much to improve during the off season, not many people thing they are going to be challenging late in the season. So enjoy the beer.

Texas Rangers (67-95): The Velvet Hammer, a strong ale from Peticolas Brewing Company, is a great pairing for a team looking to fight their way back to playoff contention. They have the talent to do it, but only if that talent can get on the field. They had some wicked injuries last year that buried them.

AL Central

Detroit Tigers (90-72): The cold brew coffee and vanilla flavors in Atwater Brewery’s Vanilla Java Porter gets the nod for the Tigers because they are going to have to REALLY step up to stay on top of the division. The Royals and Indians are coming fast, and the White Sox could be a threat as well. Verlander starting the season on the DL is not a good sign.

Kansas City Royals (89-73): Boulevard’s Tank 7, with their rise over the last few years as farmhouse ales and those hoppy notes have been getting more popular, seems to tell the tale of the Royals deliciously. They have a unique chemistry which brought them from the bottom of the division to raging success in two years. But can they keep that chemistry working?

Cleveland Indians (85-77): The very popular Edmund Fitzgerald stout from Great Lakes Brewing is extremely appropriate for this team. They have been a hesitant selection by many to take the division each year; a dark horse, if you will. And like other Cleveland sports teams, the end of the season is usually just shy of the promised land.

Chicago White Sox (73-89): For the north siders, Matilda by Goose Island is my choice to represent the White Sox. They are on the other side of the town from the scrappy Cubs, and to some may as well be another world. That could also describe Goose Island as a brewry, which many would say is no longer craft because of their owners.

Minnesota Twins (70-92): To continue the trend of pairing dark, heavy beers with the basement dwellers in baseball, the Twins get a delicious dose of Chocolate Milk Stout by Dangerous Man Brewing. Mauer could have a big year, and the talent they have could bring them back to the pack in the division, but the milk stout will definitely be something you can savor.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles (96-66): Connecting the high flying O’s with a beer by the name of Cellar Door by Stillwater Artisanal could be considered odd. It was not too long ago that name would have been more appropriate. Depending how well they healed over the off season, it could be appropriate again.

New York Yankees (84-78): A team with 27 World Series titles deserves a championship beer. Bronx Brewing (winner of best NYC Brewery in the 2015 New York International Beer Competition) focuses on making amazing pale ales. They even have one for summer, Bronx Summer Pale Ale, with a little lemon peel and an “experimental hop variety”. The big question this year: how will they fare in the post-Jeter era?

photo by Andrew Bowness
photo by Andrew Bowness

Toronto Blue Jays (83-79): Amsterdam’s Boneshaker IPA goes with the lone Canadian team in the league. The Blue Jays, much like the hoppiness and citrus of a good IPA, lingers for quite a while through the season as playoff contenders. Just a little push and they could be playing in October.

Tampa Bay Rays (77-85): How do you resist recommending a beer named after a game that involves catching balls in mitts to a team that…catches balls in mitts? Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA fills that little niche very nicely. The Rays are looking to stabilize their front office and management to give support to a team that lost a beloved manager to the Cubs. Their new manager has their work cut out for them.

Boston Red Sox (71-91): Trillium Brewing Company’s Pot and Kettle oatmeal porter has this in the official description: ominous and complete black appearance. It seemed appropriate, considering the Red Sox pitching is in a state of rebuilding and their roster is not as powerful as it was. They are the Red Sox, so anything can happen, but the way this season looks is a little murky.

Baseball and beer is a perfect pairing, and it was important to put the same passion I will rooting for the Indians as I did trying to pair the right beer with the right team. It was not an exact science, and I would love to hear what you think about the beer I paired with your favorite team. Did I nail it? Am I seriously, seriously off base? Or do you have a favorite you love to sip during the season? Let us know in the comments. Much like baseball, though, the umpire has the final say in the call. You can kick dirt on home plate and bump my chest protector all you want. Play Ball!