We love baseball. We love beer. In honor of the Major League Baseball playoffs, we thought we’d do something a little bit different. Just as every baseball team has a distinct personality, so does every beer. We put our heads together to come up with the perfect beer to represent each playoff team. Then, since we completely disagreed about every single one, we decided to do it this way instead.
Shane: Yuengling Traditional Lager, Yuengling Brewery. I refuse to go for the low-hanging fruit and say Old Style here. I know Yuengling is traditionally a Pennsylvania offering, but it has expanded well outside that original territory at this point, and the similarities are just too apt. Yuengling was founded in 1829, right around the last time the Cubs won a World Series (ZING). They pride themselves on the fact that they have been around for a long time while maintaining their independence and pride. What’s more, everyone seems to feel vaguely positive about Yuengling. I definitely don’t mind it. I’ll drink a Yuengling over a Budweiser any day of the week. When Yuengling finally made it into the Boston market, people universally shrugged and said “alright, cool.” I think that’s how most of the country feels about the Cubs. I doubt there are many people who truly hate the Cubs (except for Cardinals fans, and who cares about them). Most people would be pretty okay with them winning the World Series and finally ending their drought, just like I’m always pretty okay with ordering a Yuengling at the bar. Sometimes “pretty okay” is all you need.
York: Belgian White, Blue Moon Brewing Company. Talk about re-branding coming up big, am I right?! The Cubs took shake-up to a new level in the last couple seasons. Baseball genius Theo Epstein was the catalyst, but also included was a switch almost completely towards home-grown talent, and a continued honoring of their beloved ballpark and fans. Look at that result! The Cubs are now a popular pick and loading up that bandwagon all over the country! Blue Moon is a staple. I’ll defend it any day as a great add to any set of bar taps. Perhaps it’s because it comes with fruit, or because it doesn’t taste a whole lot like beer, but for whatever reason, Blue Moon is a favorite of at least one person in every group that goes out drinking. That’s all good and well, but Blue Moon realized recently that the ceiling is higher than just having a loyal fanbase. Boom, rebranding! A branding overhaul is not very common among breweries with major distribution (mass domestic light beers aside of course) but this one was very well served. I dig the new look, I notice it more, and it has definitely made them increase the fanbase!
Pete: Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Beer Co. Goose Island was bought out by Coors a few years ago, and many people scoffed at what was going to happen to the truly unique Chicago Brand. Was the beer going to turn to crap? I don’t know, this is different. They are going to ruin the Barrel program, no more barrel aged beer. That is expensive, yadda yadda, big companies don’t like to spend money. Well, much like Theo Epstein coming in, the infusion of a new direction has created the largest barrel aging program in the US. For whatever it's worth, the company still turns out one of the best bourbon stouts in the country at an increased capacity so more people can enjoy it. That’s like the Cubs. They have a deep farm system, money to spend on free agents, a great young core. What could go wrong? Well, much like Goose Island, some people still don’t like the specter of a corporate owner, which may hold back the brewery getting some accolades. And what will hold back this Cubs team? They are cursed. If the Red Sox and White Sox taught us anything, it is that the Cubs are actually cursed, while those teams just had a rough go of things. So no matter how good things look on paper, there will always be some doubt about this team.
San Francisco Giants
Shane: Guinness, Diageo. I don’t understand how the Giants are here. Their swoon at the end of the season was remarkable. They let a team missing the best pitcher in Major League Baseball streak past them and seize the division. But it’s an even year, which means the Giants are back in the playoffs and I fully expect them to win the World Series. I base that expectation on one man: Madison Bumgarner. Because frankly, I don’t know what else the Giants are bringing to the table. Hunter Pence is good when he’s healthy, which is usually about five minutes per season. Same with Buster Posey. Outside of that...what? They don’t have much. But Madison Bumgarner might be enough all on his own, man. And that sums up Guinness. Diageo has tried a lot of different things under the Guinness brand. They’ve tried a black lager. It was mediocre. They tried a blonde ale. It was unremarkable. The less said about their nitro IPA the better. And yet, I can confidently tell you that I will order a Guinness multiple times in the next month. It’s just that good. It’s just that perfect. That one beer alone is enough to keep me coming back to the Guinness and Diageo brands. That’s how it is for the Giants: Madison Bumgarner stands alone in a sea of mediocrity, but he stands tall.
York: Space Reaper, DC Brau Brewing Company. I don’t care for the National League. Don’t like watching pitchers pretend to hit, don’t dig small ball, the rosters are messy, take your pick. The Giants, play National League style very well, possibly better than anyone. They ranked 9th in hits but 28th in home runs; 7th in on base percentage and 25th in slugging. These aren’t problems if you win, but it sure does make it a boring way to get there. Enter Bumgarner. This dude does everything. He hits homeruns, pitches complete game shutouts, comes in for saves. That by itself makes me tune into Giants games any time he’s playing. On a related train of thought, having lived in DC for quite a while and watching the rise of DC Brau, I was always left a little unenthused. It’s good beer and a lot of people’s favorite beer, just not my jam. Enter Space Reaper. Just like Bumgarner single handedly changes my opinion of the Giants, so does Space Reaper for DC Brau. This is one of my favorite beers from that entire region, not just Brau. Huge hop profile, sky high ABV, fruity and piney all at once, this beer does everything!
Pete: Lower De Boom, 21st Amendment Brewery. This beer sums up the Giants because it starts out one year as a very hoppy, malty barleywine that doesn’t feel like it works too well. Then you take a can or two, stick it in the back of your fridge for a year, and voila: it's in perfect harmony. Lighter than many barleywines, you get a great symphony of dark fruit flavors and nice citrus notes for the hops. It’s a winning beer. That’s basically how the Giants have worked for the past six or seven years. One year the vintage just isn’t good. Too much pitching, not enough hitting, or vice versa. But give them a year and they mellow out to be the perfect World Series contender. They just need a year to age. This beer is good, but time makes it great: so it's good every other year, just like the Giants. Who would mind missing the playoffs one year if you knew you would win the championship the next year?
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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