It hasn’t been too long since I’ve written my last Beer & Baseball update but it’s felt like it. Turns out, the drive from Texas to Upstate New York is long, boring, and tiring. Five hours of driving during the day, a three hour game, and another five hours in the car at night can wear on you. But while we’ve only hit a couple breweries, we did get to throw out the first pitch at a few minor league games.
I’m happy to report that of the two first pitches Josh threw out, only one bounced to the catcher. Even better, the standing room-only crowd in Columbus only booed him a little. To be fair, he did redeem himself with a strike down the middle at the Lake Erie Crushers game. Regardless, throwing out the first pitch at these games was a great honor and we’d like to thank the Crushers, Clippers, and Legends for the opportunity.
On the beer front, we started small with the Hog Haus Brewing Company in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was a classy little brewpub near the University of Arkansas campus. The food was good: standard brewery stuff with a Southern twist. Shrimp and grits, anyone? The beer was pretty decent too and was all brewed on-site. I had the chocolaty, malt-heavy Scout Stout. Josh tried the Ruby Red Ale. He didn’t like it much but thought the Hog Haus fries were awesome.
We hit games in Arkansas and Tennessee then drove up to Lexington, Kentucky. I threw out the first pitch solo at the Legends game then Josh and I were given the royal treatment by the team, including cushy seats right behind the plate and singing part of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on the mic.
While in Kentucky we visited the Lexington Brewing Company. A subsidiary of Alltech – an animal nutrition and health company – the brewery started as a side project of the company’s founder to make beer for his friends (he is Irish after all). Our tour guide informed us that since Alltech develops biotechnology, the brewery can use very consistent yeast for their top-fermenting ales. Lexington only brews three beers: the Kentucky Ale, its light counterpart, and the Bourbon Barrel Ale. This last one’s made by pumping the ale into fresh bourbon casks, infusing up to five gallons of whiskey into the beer.
We tried all three beers and were impressed by each. The Kentucky Ale is a cross between an English pale ale and an Irish red. It was syrupy and malty and refreshing after touring the hot brewery on a smoldering Bluegrass day. We also got to try the Bourbon Barrel, which on first sniff smelled like my dad’s famous egg nog and definitely tasted more like whiskey than beer. Not that that’s a bad thing: it’s over 8% alcohol! Alltech is also working on its own bourbon brand. I look forward to trying it.
We moved on to Cleveland after the game in Columbus. We got a fascinating tour of the city by Morris Eckhouse, a Cleveland sports historian. It was exciting to stand on the spot of the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. That was long ago and the old stadium is now a weed-filled park. It’s an odd feeling. Anyway, if you have a chance, visit the Baseball Heritage Museum that Morris helps run. Cleveland has a surprisingly diverse sports history and this museum reflects it well.
Also in Cleveland, we stopped by the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Our private tour was a bit pricey at $50 (the only one we had to pay for) and was a little perfunctory but we did get a Cleveland history lesson from our guide. In fact, all Great Lakes beers are named after the city’s (in)famous moments and celebrated residents: from the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire to Elliot Ness, who after being an “untouchable” was Cleveland’s Director for Public Safety. It was ungodly hot in the brewery so we thankfully got this part of the tour in the frigid beer cooler.
We each got to try a couple beers. I liked the Burning River Pale Ale, which was clean and hoppy – but not overly. Josh had a beergasm for the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, literally saying “It’s like I’ve never had a porter before this!”
A couple more interesting tidbits about Great Lakes: 1. The Great Lakes brewpub across from the brewery – allegedly a former bar and brothel – is where they test out new beers that may go into mass production. So if you want a unique brew, go there. 2. The company is very environmentally conscious with solar panels running the brewery, spent vegetable oil powering the delivery trucks, and cold outside air cooling the beer during the winter.
Ok, gotta get back into our cramped, smelly Hyundai Accent and pull out our passports. We’re going to Canada!
– Brett P.