As you may have seen earlier this week, Eno Sarris released an excellent article at The Athletic- A Beer Nerd’s Guide to Baseball: Ranking Every Stadium by Craft Beer. If you love baseball and beer as much as I do- and you probably do if you’re reading this article- then it’s an article sure to warm the cockles of your liver. Somehow, that article and the relative inactivity of baseball right now led me to some very strange places. In short, which beers, craft or otherwise, best represent players on the Cardinals roster? Finally, you have an answer to the question nobody has ever asked.
Paul Goldschmidt: Guinness Draught
Guinness is a steady, reliable classic. They have high standards, right down to the way the beer is poured. As a stout, it has a lot of heft to it but the ABV is completely family-friendly. It’s your dad’s favorite beer if your dad has good taste. Few players in baseball represent reliability, high standards, heft, steady production, and family-friendliness that appeals to the older generations quite like Paul Goldschmidt.
Dakota Hudson: Miller High Life
Once upon a time, Miller High Life was a high end product for your parents and grandparents, the quintessential Dad Beer. We know now that there’s better stuff out there. There’s a rich cacophany of styles from gruits to IPAs (one for each coast) to saisons to brettanomyoces-infused sours, and even good versions of the basic pilsners and lagers. But for a lot of our parents and grandparents, drinking Miller High Life and racking up groundballs with a good ERA is the highest of lifes, strikeout and walk rates and corn adjuncts be damned. There’s always a place for this kind of thing, even if it’s at the recliner that your dad bought when Reagan was in the White House. Dakota Hudson is the Champagne of Pitchers.
John Brebbia: Dogfish Head Choc Lobster
A few years back, Dogfish- ever the kings of the ecclectic- brewed a porter with live lobsters, dark cocoa powder, and basil tea. You went in expecting to taste chocolate and lobsters. It’s in the name, after all. The chocolate flavor was subtly there, as was a faint and interesting briny flavor, but the most potent aspect was the basil. It was a weird enough beer based on the ingredients alone. Somehow, it doubled down on the peculiarity by overpowering you with the one ingredient that wasn’t even in the name.
This brings me to John Brebbia, the delightfully funny space cadet occupying the Cardinals bullpen. He’s an odd enough product on his own. Then add on that the reliever with one of the lowest regarded pre-MLB pedigrees has been one of the most effective in St. Louis the last few years. Suddenly you have a product that would make a mad scientist like Sam Calagione proud.
Yadier Molina: Budweiser
Say what you will about Budweiser, but it’s a St. Louis icon. The beer is forever linked with the city. You can’t talk about the history of St. Louis without talking about Budweiser, nor can you visit Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game without seeing the Budweiser logo plastered on every nook and cranny. The beer is still fiercely popular in the city, even after they were acquired by InBev. It’s true even with a wonderful craft scene featuring Perennial, Urban Chestnut, Four Hands, Schlafly, Side Project, 2nd Shift, Civil Life, Narrow Gauge, and more than I can count. Budweiser also is not popular in every circle, especially outside of St. Louis.
Now shift that to Yadier Molina. He is also forever linked to the city of St. Louis, having played sixteen seasons to date in a ballpark tied tightly to the product he most resembles. He is a St. Louis icon, still fiercely popular in the city regardless of what other circles think of him every time a Hall of Fame debate arises. I can think of no other pairing for Yadier Molina than the beer most commonly associated with the city where Molina plies his craft.
Jack Flaherty: Perennial Abraxas
Perennial’s Abraxas is rare, it’s delicious thanks to its Mexican chocolate-inspired flavors, and it’s about as well-regarded nationally as any beer. It has ties to St. Louis (brewed by Perennial) and California (named after the classic album from long-time Bay Area resident Carlos Santana). At 11.5% ABV, it will absolutely kick your ass. In ABV terms, it has elite swing-and-miss stuff. Flaherty’s talent is rare, he has California and St. Louis ties, he’s well-regarded by national pundits, and his fastball/slider combo is the equivalent of 11.5% ABV. There aren’t many better compliments than comparing someone to Perennial Abraxas.
Jordan Hicks: Russian River Pliny the Younger
Speaking of high ABV rarities that will punch you in the mouth, Russian River’s Pliny the Younger is as rare as beer gets. It’s the triple IPA version of Russian River’s amazing double IPA, Pliny the Elder. It’s released just once a year, was never available in bottles until this year, and can only be found in very select locations in California and at Monk’s Café in Philadelphia. In other words, it’s the unicorniest unicorn beer that ever unicorned, and it happens to be high octane. It’s equally difficult to find pitchers with the face-melting, sinking queso possessed by Jordan Hicks. Nobody throws like Hicks, which makes him the ideal match for Pliny. A hat tip on this one, as well as the DeJong, Webb, and Edman blurbs, has to go to FanGraphs writer and former VEB contributor Ben Clemens, who consulted on this article. By which I mean we DM’ed on Twitter about beer and baseball and he had great stuff to say, as usual.
Giovanny Gallegos: Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine
Sip of Sunshine isn’t exactly a hazy IPA, but it does possess some of the same flavor profile. There’s the juicy flavor, the smooth consistency, and the tropical notes, but the pine is still part of the mix. There’s also something of a grassy afternote and the whole thing renders as one of the more fun, complex IPAs around. The key to it all is the balance- the citrusy tropical hops and the piney hops. It’s all hops, but they go in different directions at a key moment. That’s a pretty good description for Giovany Gallegos and his two distinct sliders, which he deploys to get amazing results.
Paul DeJong: Capital Supper Club
A few years back, craft breweries started creating very basic lagers and pilsners. With all of the variety out there in craft, it’s easy for craft dorks to go down the rabbit hole with obscure beers and forget about what made them fall in love with beer in the first place. Eventually, they get nostalgic about the OG classics. Nobody goes to a college party at age 18 and pounds brut IPA. Nope... those party beers were as simple as can be, and breweries wanted to make money off of the nostalgia. Thus, breweries like Founders and Capital and Hardywood and countless others produced very good versions of very simple beers. They’re enjoyable, crushable versions of something that isn’t exactly mind-blowing. My favorite of these is Capital’s Supper Club, a classic Wisconsin lager bearing the tagline “Not bad!”
To quote Ben Clemens on this comp, “Nothing about the flavor wows you and then you notice you just had four and liked them all.” That’s Paul DeJong. Other than a month last season, nobody is confusing him for an MVP candidate, but you have to enjoy all of the above average production year in and year out. Not bad!
Tommy Edman: Dogfish Head Seaquench
Seaquench is a highly versatile beer. You can use it as a good generic craft option if you’re having beer dork friends over. You can crush one on a hot day. It can be your low-calorie reward after a workout if you don’t want the shame of drinking a beer-flavored wine cooler like Michelob Ultra. You might even be able to use it as your stretch beer if you find it at the right price. It’s a sour, it’s sessionable, and it’s becoming more and more common to find around the country. They even sell it at Nats Park. Put another way, it is The Zobrist™ of beers in that it’s versatile and becoming increasingly common.
On the other hand, it’s such an odd combination. It’s black limes, sour lime juice, and sea salt. It’s part kolsch, part gose, and part berliner weiss. It’s highly effective and extremely versatile, yet nothing about its success makes sense. Tommy Edman sure came out of nowhere to do what he did last year, spackling together baserunning, defense, functionality, a lot of triples, and an unexpected power surge into lots of production. Not much about it made sense, even if his performance was extremely refreshing and occasionally electrifying, but here we are.
Tyler O’Neill: Molson Ice
It’s a bro-tastic Canadian product. This is as reductionist as it gets. I briefly thought about assigning the Dense Piller of Meat to one of the Maudite products since their enormous ABV matches O’Neill’s bulk, but it was frankly overthinking it.
Adam Wainwright: Stone IPA
In the early to mid 2000s, the west coast IPA took the country by storm. The piney, palette-cutting C hops (Columbus, Cascade, Chinook) gave craft dorks and young millennials something to adore. They were wildly popular and successful, and Stone’s classic IPA was as good a representative as you’ll find. Eventually, Vermont’s breweries burst onto the scene with hazies like The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, bringing the New England IPA to prominence. Then brut IPAs made an appearance. The American west coast IPA lost sales and fell in popularity for a few brief years, starting around 2015.
A funny thing happened, though. Much like the classic pilsner and lager styles that have been rebooted (see the DeJong bit), the west coast IPA has become a beloved inspirer of nostalgia and is currently enjoying a second wave of popularity. If you track the years when it was popular, it times up almost perfectly with Adam Wainwright’s rise, dip, and then 2019 resurgence in his twilight years.
John Gant: Pabst Blue Ribbon
A stretch beer, to the uninitiated, is a cheap beer that you can buy in bulk and consume from paycheck to paycheck without denting your wallet on the top shelf stuff. You buy it to make your better beers “stretch” further. That’s because they allow you to save your best beers for higher leverage situations instead of, say, a generic beer you can have after you’ve mowed the lawn on a hot day and any beer will do the trick. PBR is a classic stretch beer, and a pretty good one considering the price and alternative options at that price, and it has some hipsterish qualities.
Add all of that up- it’s a low-cost product, but one of the better ones, and it allows you to save your better products for high leverage. Now picture John Gant racking up 11 wins in long relief with an assortment of half-mullets and ironic mustaches, soaking up innings until Jordan Hicks and Giovanny Gallegos can take the mound.
Tyler Webb: Corona
Look, Corona’s not great. You’re probably not excited when you have a Corona. And yet, there are a few specific moments where Corona makes perfect sense. If you’re on a beach, or at a generic Mexican restaurant near Kingdom City, Missouri with very few beer choices, or on spring break in Mexico in 1998 and you’re a mile away from a Corona bottling plant where you can get a case for $7, Corona is as good as it gets. They never show that stuff in the “A Corona Gets its Lime” ads, but I digress. The point is that Corona is a situationally appropriate beer, not ideal most of the time but absolutely perfect on specific occasions. While I have some faith in Tyler Webb’s ability to retire righthanded hitters, he sure matches up with Corona in a lot of ways.
Kolten Wong: Urban Chestnut Oachkatzlschwoaf
Part of me feels guilty about pairing up a marzen- one of the more basic styles- with a player like Kolten Wong, who has a flair for dazzling defense. Allow me to explain. First, Urban Chestnut works hard to stay true to the German style, and Kolten Wong is a classic gym rat who works hard to maximize his tools. As for the specific beer, UCBC’s Oachkatzlschwoaf is an Oktoberfest beer, and it’s a damn good one. It has its best moments in October, not unlike this, or this, or this. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I was drinking an O’katz the same day as two of those games.