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More benevolence, less beef in beer

The phrase “let’s talk about it over a beer” can mean many things, but typically hashing a quarrel out over a beer is a good thing. We’re talking face-to-face and, so long as we’re doing that, everything will be okay. We might not leave the taproom with our minds changed, but at least we heard the other side out.

Social media does not allow for this. It allows us to blindly — and often anonymously — stand behind a user name and avatar while we spew venom at people who don’t agree with us whether it’s about politics or whether or not children should be allowed at breweries.

By giving back to the communities and environments that buy their beers and provide their resources, these breweries are further elevating the beer industry at large.

As someone who follows the beer industry closely, there’s nothing more infuriating than watching two neckbeards fight it out over the keyboard, so I hoped to write about something more positive.

Earlier this week, VinePair published a story I wrote about benevolence in the beer world. That is, breweries who are aiming to use their platform to make the world a better place. Shout out to Dogfish Head, 10 Barrel, SweetWater, and Maine Beer Company for this!

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From the Gridiron to the Grapevine; Lobster in Beer?

This story is a year in the making. Around this time last summer, I began pitching this article about former NFLers who are making a splash in the wine game. I wanted to know if their wines were legitimate businesses, or were wine labels something upon which retired players could splash their names in order to make a quick buck.

The result of this inquiry appeared today in VinePair

Wine is a spirit of endless fascination to me, and the more I learned about it, the more I want to know. From the chemistry of soil to the regions climate, this is all interesting to me. I can tell you probably more than you need to know about the beer brewing process, but how the grapes interact with the yeast and how that varies year to year or the tannins and micro-oxidations in the barrels is more interesting to me right now.

It’s probably the science behind the barrels that interests me most, which is why I’m so interested in what Oxbow does at their Bottling & Blending facility up in Portland, Maine. I also published a piece this week about Oxbow’s Saison Dell’Aragosta, which — I’ll submit — doesn’t use barrels, but it still falls into the category of pretty freakin’ cool.

SaisonDell'Aragosta_bottle_photo_courtesy_of_oxbow

Oxbow and Del Ducato’s Saison Dell’Aragosta (courtesy: Oxbow Brewing Co.)

*Feature photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.

Friday, Drink/Read, Gilmore girls, Gronk

I have mentioned before that one of the great perks of having a pregnant wife is the ability to avoid all social responsibilities and watch Netflix all day/night without any sort of concern. Of course, this only pertains to the first-timers. Second timers will be chasing another kid around. There will be no Netflix binges then.

That said, one of the shows my wife really enjoyed watching was the Gilmore girls (spelled with the second g lower-case, as is the show), which we will refer to going forward as GG. She plowed through the entire series. I won’t embarrass her by using specifics. Our first kid was born in the summer, so there were no games to watch, no new sitcoms or dramas we like, so I watch GG alongside my wife. If I missed an episode — or four — it was fine, but I made sure I was around for the final few episodes.

GG was rebooted for Netflix recently and lets just say that this cause quite the stir in my household. We can’t just watch on our own time for these things; They have to be consumed almost immediately so that my wife can chat with her friends about it and read articles.

If we’re being honest, I hate that this is how we watch television (“we” in the societal sense). There was something fun about watching an episode of a series like 24 or LOST and convening with friends the next day about the episode, exchanging theories or subplot ideas, anxious for next week. Now we consume on individual timelines which leads to no interaction with anyone aside from the viewing partner. Kind of stinks.

The GG reboot was fine. It stuck to the original formula while being updated for modernity. There were cameos and return characters that were nice to see. Typically, these reboots are terrible (see: Fuller House), but this one was okay. I’d be shocked if they didn’t do it again and I’ll look forward to watching six hours of Netflix in two days again. Funny, I should add, that it definitely took me MUCH longer to get through six hours of House of Cards.

***

What do we do about Gronk?

One side: Cut him loose. Trade him for two first round picks. His injuries have cost the Patriots seedings or the season every year but one. You don’t have the money for him and Bennett. You can’t guarantee he’ll come back the same Gronk we love.

Other side: That one year he was healthy at the end of the season, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. He’s never not come back and been the same Gronk we love.

Another side: Retire. Consider life after football. Hasn’t he said he doesn’t spend his salary money? He’s a first ballot hall of fame tight end. One of the best ever. A Super Bowl champion.

Yet another side: He’ll be the greatest what-if ever. He’s already in the conversation for best of all-time. Two, three more seasons like he’s had every season and he’s the best, hands down. He doesn’t have the stats of Gates or longevity of Gonzalez, but no tight end has changed the course of an entire NFL season the way he has every year.

To wit:

2011 plays Super Bowl on broken ankle, loss to Giants

2012 broke arm against Houston, Pats lost next game to Ravens

2013 torns ACL, Pats lose home field, then AFC title game to Broncos

2014 no injuries, Super Bowl champs

2015 knee injury sat Gronk last month of the season, lose home field and at Broncos in AFC title game

2016 back injury.

I just threw up.

***

Read: This piece by Kathryn Schulz won the Pulitzer last year. It’s terrifying and interesting and worth 20 minutes of your time. Considering all the environmental work we’ve accomplished over the course of the last couple decades and the possible consequences of a new administration, this is worth considering.

Drink: Backwoods Bastard by Founders. See it on the shelves. Think, “Whoa, that’s an expensive four pack.” Remember, “Matt says it’s awesome.” Look at the label. Consider. Question, “Am I going to spend $15 on a four pack of an IPA anyway?” Buy the Backwoods Bastard. Do it. Backwoods Bastard. It will change your life. Backwoods Bastard.

What a Week; What to Read; What to Drink

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed reading the responses to the victory of our President-Elect. I’m making peace with it, but I hope two pieces of legislature stays intact:

(1) ACA: please reform it. Do not eradicate it. It’s not a perfect plan for many reasons, but more people than ever before have health care. That’s a basic human right. We cannot deny them that. It’s inhumane. Reform it. Make it better. Strive to make the world better by providing America’s underserved population with health care. Jesus, this seems so easy;

(2) Please don’t go back on all the environmental progress we’ve made, especially with the Paris Agreement of this summer. Climate change is a real threat. Ignoring it and surrounding yourself with people who don’t believe climate change is real is dangerous. And it’s wrong. Please, President Trump, don’t be an idiot.

Alas, I don’t — as of now — have this kind of faith in him. Not yet. Prove me wrong.

***

I’ve been saying lately that the NBA is our most progressive professional sports league. It’s not an eye-opening statement. It’s nothing I’m teaching anyone. NFL is the NFL, where celebrating is illegal, but punching women isn’t; MLB employs more hispanic players than any league, but doesn’t allow them to have fun; The NHL, for all it’s international appeal, still attracts male viewers by allowing fighting.

The NBA, though, is led by normal people with actual intelligence. This also manifests itself in this week’s must read. Marc J. Spears wrote about Gregg Popovich this week and called him the NBA’s “most woke” coach.

“He’s not the typical coach for sure,” San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge told The Undefeated. “He’s in tune with what is going on around the world with people and with race. He’s not afraid to voice his beliefs and his opinions. He’s tried to help us realize that there are more things than basketball, more than the NBA.

Read it and gain an even greater respect for one of the greatest coaches in all of pro sports.

As for beer, I promised myself I wouldn’t drink until Saturday but the events of the week made me break that promise for one beer, which was Southern Pines Brewing’s Drunken Vigils, which seemed appropriate for my mood. This breakfast stout came in a 16-oz can and clocked in at a massive 14% ABV. Whoa. This drank with the smoothness of a 5% beer, no lie. All chocolate, medium body, light carbonation. Got better and easier to drink as it warmed up. If you’re ever in that area of North Carolina, grab a whole bunch.

Have a nice weekend.

Read & Drink

There is a cluster of websites I visit every day to find article to read. Usually this takes place over the course of a week. Back in the pre-children days, I would set aside a certain quantity of long-reads and save them. Sunday morning would come and I’d sit on the couch and catch up on what I’ve missed. This doesn’t happen anymore, for the aforementioned presence of, ahem, them.

Another reason I’ve shied away from visiting these websites is that I, like most people in American right now, are sick of election coverage. The election can’t come soon enough and hopefully when it ends, it ends and doesn’t take on another life of it’s own with claims of being rigged or recounts. This cycle just needs to be done.

By next week’s read & drink, we’ll have a new president. Amazing. I can’t imagine anything worse than being President of the United States. I’m pretty sure the outgoing president has never been saddened by the sight of movers taking their stuff home. It must be a tremendous weight lifted.

For read and drink, I’m going to do something a little different. I want to review a beer rather than just recommend one. I’ll never review a bad beer, not because there aren’t any out there, but it does no service to me or to any reader to say, “This is a beer I drank. It sucked and here’s why.” Instead, I’d like to write a review of a beer I really truly liked and maybe you’ll pick it up.

Read: Well, this is an easy one. I wrote for UPRoxx Sports about the Boston Celtics and their pursuit of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but also something deeper than that. They’re seeking to reach an expectation from fans and media, but are chasing the ghosts of 17 banners in the rafters at TD Garden. They’re also trying to dispel a popular opinion in the NBA. Read it.

Drink: Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA, 8.9% — This is part of Stone’s 20th Anniversary Encore Series. This is not what you’d expect from a Stone IPA. There’s no lingering piney bitterness. It’s a more earthy IPA with no back end bitterness. It calls itself an English IPA and I get a little bit of that, but there’s less of that … umm … funk of a British beer. This is smooth, deceptively big at almost 9%. Definitely share the wealth and at $9.99, a steal.

Be Hoppy

Somewhere around 2004 or 2005, my friend and I were in San Diego waiting for another friend of ours to get out of a job interview. We were his ride to and from the office building. In an effort to kill time, we wandered into Ballast Point Home Brew Mart, which was, apparently, a brewery.

We didn’t know much about the beer making process. We didn’t know much about beer, but we knew what we just had was different and gave us a little bit of a buzz off just the few samples we had.

Fast forward a decade or so, and we both drink almost exclusively craft beer. This isn’t to say I won’t have a Corona or a Miller Lite (and if you turn these things down at a summer BBQ because they’re “not craft” or “swill” then fuck you). I’ve seen a lot change in my own tastes in craft beer.

First, I really liked porters. Then I started getting into pale ales. They were a bit lighter. I remember drinking my first real west coast IPA from Green Flash. Holy shit the bitterness. I hated it. But IPA’s grew on me. You see, back then, IPA’s were a style of beer you became accustomed to. It was an acquired taste. A refined craft beer drinker drank IPA’s when they reached the level of craft beer drinker. Not just someone who dabbles.

This isn’t the case anymore. IPA’s are becoming the entry point to craft beer. People who have never drank anything other than Bud or Coors or Sam Adams (still a craft brewery, btw, and a great one), are now seeking out IPA’s. They’re the gateway to craft beer. They’re all people drink these days. Young kids, old men and women. IPA’s. All the time.

Remember when parents joined Facebook and everyone under a certain age thought, “Holy shit, my mom is on here” and signed off? It the same thing with craft beer. Mom’s and dad’s are into it. It’s no longer this subversive, cool world anymore (much to some people’s disappointment). I’ve got 65 year olds coming into the store at which I work looking for double dry hopped IPA’s.

They ask for juicy IPA’s, cloudy IPA’s, hazy IPA’s, citrus IPA’s. They talk about IPA’s they like using words like “turgid” or “citrusy” or, my favorite, “hoppy.” No shit. “Great hop nose up front showing those hop characteristics, and finishes really hoppy,” reads many a review.

And I’ve come to this conclusion:

If you only drink IPA’s, you don’t like craft beer. You like IPA’s.

I must emphasize that this is fine if you only drink IPA’s. You like IPA’s. Drink what you like to drink. I go onto beer websites and look at “hauls” or fridge pics that show three cases of assorted IPA’s and double IPA’s. “Gonna be a nice weekend #whalez #beerhaul!!”

You can’t call yourself a beer drinker if you only drink one style of beer. It’d be like me saying I’m a complete sports nut, but when you ask me about sports I reply, “I mostly watch NASCAR.” That’s great. I’m a huge NASCAR fan. Doesn’t make me a sports fan.

And spare me the argument that your cellar is filled with KBS and Bourbon County. Oh, a hyped-up special release that has off-the-chart ratings on Beer Advocate? I should be impressed that your one deviation from hop-forward beers are the extremely sought after beers that you use to impress your friends with haul pictures on Instagram? Great. Doesn’t change that you don’t like beer. You like IPA’s. Back to my sports analogy. Can I watch only NASCAR and just the Super Bowl and now you can officially call me Sports Nut again? No. It means I watch what everyone else watches.

Again, this is fine if you only drink IPA’s. That’s what you like. But I hear too many “craft beer drinkers” (aka people who don’t like beer, just IPA’s) talk about how they won’t drink macro swill or fizzy yellow piss or whatever they call and it’s pure snobbery from a sect of people who only drink one style of beer. I was a self-described hophead once. I still love a great IPA and there are some great Massachusetts breweries that are making great versions. But part of the fun of craft beer is variety.

Craft beer is at a weird crossroads right now. I commented on a friend’s article a couple weeks ago that craft beer is becoming beer for people who don’t like beer. It’s orange-juice IPA’s, coffee/vanilla stouts, and fruit-flavored German lagers. I’m not saying we need to convert every drinker back to Belgian farmhouse ales and German Hefeweizen; I’m not saying that your beer is bad.

But, shit, throw in an oatmeal stout or a pilsner or a fucking English style barleywine every once in a week. Get some variety. Stop drinking only hop-water, or continue to, I guess I shouldn’t care. Just don’t talk about how much of a craft beer geek you are.

Missed one yesterday

I even had a title for the hours missed, I swear.

When it got to around 2:30 EST, I figured I could title it “lunch time in Chicago,” when it became a little bit darker, it was, “Lunch time in L.A.” then it became Hawaii and my attitude was “eff it.”

On Wednesday night, I covered the Celtics season opener against the Brooklyn Nets.

(Short aside: It’s amazing how difficult it was to write “Brooklyn” the other night. I know they’re the Brooklyn Nets. I call them the Brooklyn Nets, but for whatever reason, I kept abbreviating them as NJ.)

I’d never walked into the bowels on the TD Garden before. It was like seeing how a sausage was made. Food was being carted around; Dancers stretched and choreographed routines; Media people I see on TV were eating fried fish and green beans. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’ve been in the same room with many professional athletes. Very rarely (anymore) do I get starry eyed. This didn’t happen this time — I promise not even when I asked Brad Stevens a question at the post game presser.

What I always marvel at, though, is how big these people are. They’re tall, they’re bodies like Adonis. Just gigantic individuals. Except Isaiah Thomas, who is my exact height and weight, yet, looks entirely different than I look without a shirt on. My daughter told me it’s because he’s got bigger muscles. Nice saber metrics analysis.

It’s different watching a game as a member of the press than as a fan. I caught myself a couple times. Most notably, when Jaylen Brown, the Celtics lottery pick cut to the hoop and went for a dunk (he was fouled). I reflexively bounced to the front of my seat and clenched my teeth before realizing I can’t root here. Closest I got was at the end of the game. I elected to stand to watch the final seconds run out on a close Celtics win.

After the press conference and locker room, I hit the road. It took me about 40 minutes to get home. I unloaded my stuff and hit the bed. In the morning, my son’s nap allowed me time to write a draft (I’d written a bit during the game); Post-lunch naps allowed me some edits; My wife came home and I got a chance to finish a draft to hand it. It will be posted here when I get the final draft published.

Read: I didn’t read much aside from Celtics research the entire week leading up to the game, so I can’t help much here, but I did sneak in Mark Titus as he wrote about Villanova’s win and it’s effect on the college basketball landscape. I love college hoops. I’m excited about this year and this article, written by one of the more entertaining and thorough college basketball minds, is a good place to start.

Drink: Man, I don’t know. Same thing. Not a ton of drinking happening this week, but I really enjoyed Remain in the Light by Cambridge Brewing Company here in Massachusetts. Found it on draft before the Celtics game when I wanted to take some of the nervous edge off. It’s a nice light pilsner, I think a little below 5% ABV, so it’s perfect for those days when you just want to have a beer and not get a buzz.