Osburn on Tap: Beer and baseball in enemy territory

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.” -Field of Dreams

I consider myself to be a fairly big sports fan overall. I pay close attention to every major American sport, although my enthusiasm for the NBA has been decreasing exponentially due to the New York Knicks embarrassing decline. If I had to choose a favorite sport it would definitely be Major League Baseball. Also, If I could watch any major sporting event in the world, it would be the World Series (Or the FIFA World Cup, but that only takes place every four years and most Americans don’t share my soccer/football fanaticism, so there’s really no need to talk about that here).

Since it’s only April and the World Series won’t be played for another six months, I’ll just have to settle for early season ball. Honestly, though, I’m crazy about baseball. As soon as the final pitch was thrown last year, I found myself counting down the days until spring training. I get all antsy during the weeks leading up to the day when catchers and pitchers report in mid February.

What does this have to do with beer, you say? Baseball fandom has everything to do with beer, at least for me. I’m just as nutty about sports and baseball as I am about beer, and it seems that the rest of the U.S. is following suit. In the last decade, craft brewing has transformed from a tiny fraction of domestic beer production to become an American art form and movement. It’s now hip to be more knowledgeable about beer than wine. Since baseball is famous for being the “American past time,” it makes sense that this new craft brewing craze can so easily be compared to a person’s excitement for the game we love. Also, home brewing and craft brewing could quite possibly be America’s newest past time.

I know this won’t make me very popular, but I live in New York and I’m a Red Sox Fan. Wow, it feels good to get that out. I feel like I’m at a support group or something. I know that seems like an oxymoron, but it’s true. I’ve been a Boston fan my whole life. Living in the midst of enemy territory and rooting for a hated rival is not an easy life, and I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone. Most times, I can only watch games between the two squads in the privacy of my own home for fear that I’ll be berated by Derek Jeter Fan Club members. Sometimes though, if I’m feeling a little frisky, I venture out into Yankeeland in search of a frosty brew or two.

I have encountered many types of people while rooting for my beloved ‘Sox at local bars and watering holes. I’ve met those who pity me (even though Boston has won two, count ’em, two world series in the last 4 years!), those who are angry with me, those who feel that I’m most likely a bandwagon fan, and those who respect me for my allegiance in such hostile terrain.

Watching sports in a bar setting with friends is one of my favorite leisure activities. Does life get any better than when you can spend a few hours sitting on a bar stool with some delicious fried food and a pint of your favorite beer while watching your favorite team on a giant plasma T.V.? Well, maybe the same experience while sitting on top of the Green Monster and looking down to read 12-0 on the scoreboard in favor of the home team. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the Yankee fans. Heck, I watch pretty much every Yankees game on T.V. (while rooting for whomever they are playing).

Boston’s Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx are fairly far away, but lucky for me, I live within a few hours drive of Cleveland (Progressive Field), Toronto (The Rogers Centre), and the Mecca of all that is America’s game, Cooperstown. This small town in central New York, as most sports fans know, is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

In these hallowed halls you can find plaques for all 176 players inducted into this most prestigious club, as well as memorabilia from baseball’s early days all the way up to today. Where else can you see an actual game ball from Kevin Youkilis’ 194th consecutive error-less game? Nowhere, that’s where! How about the cap Joe Torre wore when he won his 2,000th career game as a manager? You’ll only find these items at the Hall of Fame.

For more information on the Hall of Fame visit web.baseballhalloffame.org.

Coincidentally, Cooperstown is also home to two craft breweries, Cooperstown Brewing Company and Brewery Ommegang. Although both produce craft beer, they are extremely different in their execution.

The Cooperstown brewing company of Milford, New York, is located just outside of the town of Cooperstown. To say that this brewery’s products have been affected by its close proximity to this baseball loving community might be a bit of an understatement. The brands produced by this brewery all relate to some facet of baseball. They pretty much make every mainstream craft style while staying true to their theme. They are: Old Slugger Pale Ale, Nine Man Golden Ale, Benchwarmer Porter, Strikeout Stout, Backyard Golden IPA, and Pride of Milford Special Ale. Baseball aficionados won’t want to leave town without a few packs of these big boppers.

For more information on these brews and the Cooperstown Brewing Company, visit www.cooperstownbrewing.com.

Brewery Ommegang is also a craft brewery, although it resides in a much different category than the Cooperstown Brewing Company. Both of these breweries make great products, but at Ommegang you won’t find silly names and cartoon baseball players gracing the bottles. Instead of kitsch you’ll find classic Belgian beer. This is the high end of Craft brewing. With such brands as Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Rare Vos Amber Ale, Three Philosophers Quadrapel, and Ommegang Witte Ale, you might want to bring your sense of adventure as well as a credit card or three for this excursion. These can get a bit pricey, and, after trying them, I’m sure you’ll want to buy a few bottles to take home.

For more information on these brews and Brewery Ommegang visit www.ommegang.com.

On a side note, even if you aren’t big into sports, this is a very cool little village with a lot of great shops and restaurants. I would suggest it as a day trip destination to anyone within driving distance. So, if you love road trips, and I know I do, make sure to visit Cooperstown. If not for the baseball museum, do it for the beer. Also, if you’re lucky, you can get a good look at Curt Schilling’s sock. It’s worth the trip just to see that. I know you’re excited now.

“Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, contact him at ChristopherOsburn@hotmail.com.

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