A belated Happy Opening Day to you all! I was very busy in the days and weeks leading up to the blessed event, pitching in on Sports Illustrated‘s MLB Preview issue (cover date March 30, edited by fiancée Emma Span), for which I interviewed multiple scouts about the strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams for the “Enemy Lines” features as well as writing up half a dozen teams for the SI.com previews (which have different content from the magazine). I did another TV spot with Duke Castiglione for Fox Sports Extra, took as many radio hits as I could manage and on Opening Day, hunkered down with colleagues Cliff Corcoran and Jon Tayler to live-blog 11 games taking place over a six-hour span.
Here’s the TV spot from March 30:
Elsewhere, and owing to the suds-stained content on this here blog — including my passing reference to writer Niko Krommydas’ article on Other Half’s mobile canning efforts — I was profiled by Krommydas for Brooklyn Magazine. We discussed the union of baseball and beer as well as the craft scene in New York City, and the piece wrapped up with my “starting rotation” of five beers to celebrate the baseball season. Three are locals, namely Other Half IPA, Sixpoint Sweet Action and Third Rail Bodega Pale Ale, with Harpoon’s Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA and Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout rounding out the selection. It’s not an all-time top five by any means, just a nice cross-section that tells a story along the way.
Meanwhile, I’ve fallen behind in my Beers of the Week, so…
• March 18: Troeg’s Nugget Nectar
It’s always fun to sample this highly-sought imperial amber ale, which uses whole flower Nugget hops as well as Warrior, Tomahawk, Simcoe and Palisade. it’s a 93 IBU hop bomb that delivers all of the pine, resin and citrus notes your nose and palate can handle.
• March 25: Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA
Though they’re the second-largest craft brewer in the country, Sierra Nevada’s offerings are a staple of any good beer diet. As this Deadspin summarized recently, “Hating Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is for Suckers” and beyond that, the brewery has a whole lot going on. While the wide availability of SNPA played a major role in opening up beer drinkers’ minds and palates to the fragrant, hoppy stuff, tastes have evolved and so have techniques. Earlier this year, the brewery introduced their Hop Hunter IPA, which features a revolutionary method of production. Right there in the field, the oil from freshly harvested Cascade, Centennial and CTZ hops is steam-distilled into a stable, super-potent form that allows the brewers to make wet-hopped beer year-round. Krommydas has a full description of the process here as well as an interview with SN kingpin Ken Grossman; according to the piece, only a half-milliliter of the oil is used per barrel of beer, with whole-cone hops used as well.
And lemme tell ya, WOW. Open up a bottle of this stuff — which costs the same as the rest of their year-round line, hardly a king’s ransom — and pour it into a glass. Give it a couple minutes to breathe and you’ll think you’re the fucking emperor of imperial IPAs. It’s incredibly aromatic, floral and fresh but light, dry and not overwhelming in bitterness (60 IBU). Oh, the places they can take this…
• April 1: Founder’s Black Rye
I’m a huge fan of this Michigan brewery, black beers and rye beers, so this one landed right in my wheelhouse. I initially characterized it as a drier, more peppery version of their porter, one of the best around, but it’s not quite as thick as that, closer to a schwartzbier weight. Whatever it is, it works. It’s a silky dry-hopped ale that according to Founders blends German and American hops, and the rye presence is strong. It comes in at 7.5% ABV and 78 IBU. Not for the faint of heart.
• April 8: Pliny the Elder
You can ask how somebody on the East Coast can get ahold of this hard-to-find double IPA from Russian River Brewing Company, but with all due respect to the sainthood-worthy reader who put me onto it, it’s just not my place to reveal my source. This is one of the gold standards in beer, named for the Roman naturalist who is supposedly the first to write about hops, and rated at a full 100 on Beer Advocate, but only because they haven’t gone the Spinal Tap route and decided it deserves a 110 or something higher. Packaged in a half-liter bottle (though I’ve been blessed to have it on tap in California), this one is big and fruity, with notes of pineapple, pear and orange offsetting the pine and resin as well as the malty backbone. It’s 8.0% ABV, and if you’re drinking this as a session beer, you’re probably either doing it wrong or celebrating a lottery win.
Here’s hoping you can find a way to try this. If you’ve read this far, chances are you deserve it.