The leaves are turning, the humidity is gone and hockey season is here. If you can’t go to a Pens' game, the next best thing is getting together with friends to watch the game and have a few adult beverages. I love planning get-togethers but I’m never sure what beer to serve. Do I choose a beer based on the menu? If I marinate the steak for sliders in a lager I should serve that beer to drink as well….right? But what if I make a big pot of spicy chili to go with the sliders? Do I amp up the hops and go for an IPA?
Then it occurred to me.... everybody has a favorite player. Why not serve beer that goes with the player not the food? I could choose a beer based on the characteristics, skills and nationalities of the players.
I quickly realized I was in over my head.
No problem! I hit up my friend Nick at Beer Bros Blog. Hosting/Covering beer events is his thing. Because he’s good at the planning, pairing & piecing what beer goes where, I charged him with the task of translating this to the Pens for the upcoming season.
Pens Initiative: Nick, I’m planning a Penguins season opening party. I don’t want it to be about the food. I want to match the beer selection to the players. This is something new for me, can Beer Bros Blog help me?
Beer Bros Blog: Beer events have always been a thing. They have, however, become a bigger thing. The evolution of beer events has certainly reached new heights. Food pairing, dinners, aging, educating yourself... these were all phrases synonymous with the world of wine. The world has changed. Get out your notebook and get ready for beer 101. It will be a great day for hockey... and beer.
PI: What beer would you serve with a Sidney Crosby goal? When I think of Sid, I think of strong character, class, strength, leadership and unparalleled quality.
BBB: I’ve got just the thing, Barley Wine.
Why: While the name may fool you, this is a beer through and through. It is an ale that gets its name from the high level of alcohol. Generally in the 8 to 12% range. Same as a glass of wine. But the taste is the apex of all ales. Rich, complex, strong. Other characteristics as to why this works; it has some serious legs, seems to get better all around with age, and mellows out over time. Remember what the captain was like at 18? And now? A bit more mellow.
PI: Beau Bennett. When I think of Beau, I think of all of his injury woes and that makes me think delicate but with great potential.
BBB: You should think Home brew. Any style.
Why: Anyone who has attempted to brew a batch at home, knows a few things. It takes time. Time to prep. Time to cook. Time to ferment. Time to mature. The process is an extremely fragile one. A simple misstep, and you may just wind up back at square one. And you never really know what you are going to get until the job is completely done. Patience... and you just may have something great.
PI: This fun! Lets try Kris Letang. First off, as a homage to his hair, it has to have a good head! I think of him as a resilient, fast skater with smooth scoring ability.
BBB: Consider a California IPA
Why: The IPA is a hop forward bitter mess at times. But when it all comes together correctly, which it does in California, it can be amazing. Has its rough edge, but is mellowed out by the grapefruit citrus notes, and is rounds out with a malty smooth finish. Oh, and just fantastic head sitting on top.
Think: Bear Republic Racer No. 5, Stone IPA
BBB: Oktoberfest, of course!
PI: Steve Downie is next. He's a tough guy who never backs down. Bold! Strong! Not real complex.Why: German correlation aside, these Marzen style brews are malt forward. Meaning nothing but smooth, and consistent. It won't bowl anybody over, but it will always be there, and you know what you are going to get stein, after stein, after stein.Think: Paulaner. Reliable, durable, and just plain solid beer since 1634.
BBB: Downie is a Double IPA.
Why: Ever had an IPA and wasn't used to it? It is a bitter donkey kick to the senses. Now double that. Double the hops, double the bitter, double the donkey kick. Oh, and usually running in the 7 to 12% alcohol level, it will leave you on your ass.PI: Rob Scuderi was prime in his day but has lost a step or two. Still a classic (has his name on the cup 2x) If he's 100% from last season's injury; a strong work horse with moments of brilliance.
BBB: Scuds is an American Pale Ale
PI: How about Olli Maata? He had a good rookie year but he starts the season injured. Not to mention, he isn't 21 yet.Why: The simplest blend of complexity. The right amount of hops, malt, and alcohol. Decent enough body, mid range level of Alcohol (4.5-6%), and just enough carbonation to let you know it is there, and doing its job. But don't age this beer. Drink it in its prime window, or get ready for the skunk stinking up the joint. You might wanna sucker somebody into trading it for a new one.
Why: Think about it... maybe next year he gets a real beerPI: So much was made around the time of the past Olympics about whether Chris Kunitz is a solid player without Crosby. I think he is a solid first line winger.
BBB: If you're celebrating Kunitz, you're celebrating Crosby. For him I choose Huntsman cheese.
Why: Layers of stinky blue cheese in American cheddar. Simply the perfect compliment to Barley Wines (See: Crosby).PI: Marc Andre Fleury. The 'Burgh loves to hate him. He could stand on his head and make every save that was humanly possible yet, be blamed for that one puck that even The Flash couldn't stop.
BBB: Fleury is all the Spiced Pumpkin Beers. Before you protest, hear me out.
Why: Seeing these bottles on the shelves is a sign that the dog days of summer are ending, and Fall is near. It is a great feeling, one that can ease over any room. And the taste is just as fulfilling. They convey that joyful feeling of a crisp Fall breeze while jumping into a pile of leaves. But as with any seasonal, it certainly wears out its welcome. Before long, you are ready for a change for something more to suited your needs
Why: When the big money brew fails you, you should have a steady back up on hand. You all know what I am talking about. A back stock of the staple. Now the question will be answered soon enough if that is Zatkoff or Greiss.
PI: Here's a challenge, Robert Bortuzzo. Even the tough guys think twice about dropping the gloves with him. He fights like he plays; full out, no backing down.
BBB: Only a challenge to the guys he plays against. He is an Imperial Stout.
PI: Brandon Sutter makes me think of someone who is hard working and just poised for a breakout season. I also think of him naked in the locker room….remember the interview photo bomb?Why: Intimidation. That is what comes to mind when served an Imperial Stout. A taller than average bottle, houses a 100% opaque, black as night, sludge like liquid. The aromas are stiff, strong, and while slightly complex you can asses all of their participants are noticeable and common (coffees, chocolates, toffees, brown sugars, etc). Given the darkness of the beer, and the 8-13% ABV of these, if you have one or two encounters with them in a night, you will certainly be feeling it the next morning.
BBB: I try not to.....let's serve a Cask Ale.
PI: I'm so intrigued by Patric Hornqvist. He has scored at least 20 goals in each of his four full seasons with mediocre line mates. He could be something special on a line w Crosby or Malkin.Why: Sometimes something needs a little more time than others to be fully realized. These brews are aged in oak casks, not unlike scotch or bourbon. The spice, the time, the oak barrel, all are factors in this beers development. And when the are ready, you are in for a smooth, stylish, strong treat. Something a little different than you are used to for sure. This year, we may just get to see what has been aging in the cask since the trade.Think: Innis & Gunn
BBB: To compliment Hornqvist, I'd offer a Porter.
Why: In your face look, dark and strong; in your face aromas, coffee and roasted malts; in your face taste. Once this strong brew gets in your face, you will have a hard time moving it out. And that will only endear itself in fans eyes over and over. It is a blue collar beer.
Think: Sam Smith Taddy Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter
PI: Paul Martin is said to be one of the smartest guys to play the game. He’s been called a power play craftsman. He wore the "A" last night.
BBB: A classic American player goes with an Amber Lager.
Why: A smooth upgrade on the original. When looking for an everyday beer that you can rely on for a serious run of day drinking, this will be there. The malt and hops are strong, but so well blended that you almost might miss how complex they really are, unlike its slightly rougher counterpart. Overall taste may appear common, but when stacked against stronger competition, it will stand up and even excel. Just an all around solid beverage that will never let you down.
BBB: Without hesitation, Keg Beer....likely Bud or Miller.
Why: When you were growing up, and probably through college, what was better than keg beer? Not much. Got the job done, albeit in an unspectacular fashion, it was done. But you know what happens when you get older? Keg beer just doesn't do it anymore. It's flat. Stale. The job needs something stronger, better, classier.PI: Pascal Dupuis is one of my all-time favorites. He's dependable, hard working and never gives up. He may not have the best shot but he will out-skate you and check you into next Tuesday. He wore the "A" last night.
BBB: Trust me, Duper is a Czech style Pilsner.
PI: We've got a couple guys I'm not sure about; Blake Comeau and Nick Spaling. I guess we could just take a wait and see approach with them.Why: The top line is strong. Barley wine & stinky cheese strong. But you can't drink and eat Barley wine & stinky cheese all night. You need a lighter, easier drinking complement to support you through an overnight drunk. The Czech Pils is perfect. Crisp, clean, refreshing, served in a lean glass. You know exactly what you are going to get from a Czech pils, and you are going to love what it adds to your big night.Think: Oskar Blues Mamma's Little Yella Pils, Lagunitas Pils
BBB: Never pass up an opportunity for beer! Highlight these guys with a Session beer.
Why: Session beers get their name from WWI England. While weapon makers were working entirely too long days (before labor laws) they were allowed two separate 4 hour breaks. 11am-3pm & 7pm-11pm. During these breaks, workers liked to drink to take the edge off. Not wanting a bunch of drunks building weapons (understandably), employers offered nothing but low alcohol brews, ranging from 3-4.5% booze, so employees could drink as much as they want in those 4 hour blocks, and not be a blathering sloppy mess. Hence the term: Drinking Sessions, & Session Beer.
I equate all of that to these two new comers because we really don't know what we are going to get from either of them, if anything. We could have four of these brews in a hour, and drive home. Pens could have picked these guys up, and get absolutely nothing in return. Time will tell.
Think: Founders All Day IPA
PI: Evgeni Malkin! I love Geno....his skill, intensity, finesse....his moodiness! You never know what you're going to get; is it the former Conn Smythe winner or the guy who can't stay out of the sin bin?
BBB: I solved Geno with a Variety 12 pack
Why: Reach in blindly for this one. You may get one of the greatest brews you've ever had (like 2011-12 Malkin). Or a pretty solid brew, but nothing spectacular (much like the last two years of 71). Or a plain old underachieving beer that they just kinda tossed in there (like 2010). Unfortunately, the inconsistency of pulling out a strong one is what is holding this back.PI: Nick, I think you nailed it! I'm so impressed with your knowledge of beer and hockey. One last thing, what if I wanted to serve something that represented me?
BBB: So you want a beer that represents you to wrap this thing up? I think I've got it. An attractive women who likes beer, hockey, and is one Tough Mudder? A rarity, but I know where I'm going. Can only be one thing. A strong Belgian brew from an American brewer. Something about the way the Belgians make beer is a little sexier than how we do it over here. But the minute you let the class of it and everything else fool you, it will kick your ass. A Little Sumpin Wild by Lagunitas is just the thing. Belgian class and strength, finished with a SoCal cool vibe, and a solid 9% ABV that you don't see coming, but will flip you for real.
PI: (Blushing) Thanks, Nick. For all things beer give Nick a follow at BeerBrosBlog on Twitter, FB and Instagram. Illustration courtesy of: Rob Ullman, Photoshop: Ryan Noble