There are advantages to writing a book with a guy. For instance, it’s a good bet that you’re going to get the first samples of his brewery’s new beer.
I’m talking of course about Mark Murphy, co-author of How To Make Your Own Brewskis: The Go To Guide For Craft Beer Enthusiasts. The link is to the right, if you don’t already own a copy of this book. If I may borrow from Douglas Adams, I’ll point out that it has two advantages over Charlie Papazian’s Complete Joy Of Homebrewing. Firstly, it is slightly cheaper. Secondly, it has the words “Yes You Can!” in big friendly letters on the cover.
It strikes me that I ought to be entirely honest with you basically immediately. I don’t know how objective I can possibly be when I’m reviewing a beer brewed by a man with whom I have written a book about brewing beer. I would advise you to take my opinion with a grain of salt, although I shall try as reasonably hard to be objective as I possibly can given that it is 11:45 PM and that I have already issued a caveat.
Mark and his lovely wife Mandie have started a new brewery called Left Field. Mark has amassed some not inconsiderable brewing experience over the last few years and Mandie has a lot of experience in alcohol sales and marketing. They’re both incredibly stable people. This bodes well for the brewery.
The brewery is baseball themed. This comes as little surprise to me as I don’t believe that I have ever seen Mark Murphy without a baseball cap. The subtle difference in his appearance tonight when he arrived with sample bottles is that he now has a baseball cap with the logo of the brewery on it. It is a Brooklyn Dodgers era inspired “L”. I like that a great deal, having grown up on Dad’s stories of Duke Snider and Flatbush.
The first beer from Left Field is called “Eephus.” It is an Oatmeal Brown Ale.
This is a nice conceptual effort. I can count on one finger the number of Oatmeal Brown Ales I have ever tried. An Eephus pitch is something you throw when you’re looking to catch the batter off guard. R.A. Dickey, who the Blue Jays have just signed doesn’t quite throw an Eephus, but the principle is the same. He has a painfully slow curveball that drops a foot when you swing at it. Dave Steib threw Eephus pitches periodically. It’s sort of an attention getter. It messes with the batter’s brain. What’s the guy going to throw next?
This is a good explanation for launching with an Oatmeal Brown Ale in Ontario at the moment. If you consider IPAs a 98 mile an hour fastball, this really is an Eephus. It’s not something that you’re expecting.
To give you some idea, I’m aware of two Oatmeal Brown Ales. One is Cigar City’s Maduro, which I have tried. The other is The Beer Academy’s Oatmeal Brown Ale, which I have not. There are probably more of them, but the fact that I’ve only ever heard of two and have a greater breadth of context than most people makes it about as rare as anything I can think of.
Brown Ale is not something you see a lot at the moment. It’s an underappreciated style. Oatmeal Brown Ale is slightly different because it has a little more body because of the oats in the grist. It’s given a thicker, more substantial mouthfeel. Eephus doesn’t quite get slick in the way an Oatmeal Stout does. I would guess that there are fewer residual sugars to aid that property.
The label boasts that “This American Brown Ale finds its sweet spot with dark, dried fruit aromas, a touch of bitterness and spicy woodiness, and a surprisingly creamy smooth taste.” I’m happy to say that it does exactly what it says on the tin. I’d compare it favourably to Cigar City Maduro, although it’s worth pointing out that it’s slightly hoppier and has a little less sweetness to it.
I also like the label, which is understated and tells you everything that you might want to know about the beer. ABV. IBU. SRM.
I knew Mark was a good brewer, but I’m pleasantly surprised by the complexity here.
I asked him whether he was worried that the fate of his branding might depend on how well the Jays do in 2013, which is touted by many as the year they might actually do something. Say Encarnacion blows an ACL or something and they slide to third in the AL East by the All-Star Break? Mark was unworried. This was before I tried the beer. I can see why he was unworried.
I asked him whether he had the ability to produce enough beer to keep up with demand if the Jays go on a tear and end up in October. Say Colby Rasmus suddenly has a 40 game mullet powered hit streak. What then? People will order the beer with the baseball themed tap handle. Mark is unworried.
He’s an unflappable baseball-cappable man. It’s one of the reasons I like the guy so much. Stoicism is important in baseball and in brewing.
I have run out of nice things to say about this beer, so here is a list of 10 bad and relatively hackneyed Baseball Themed names he should consider to expand his lineup.
10. Lloyd Goseby
9. Roberto Ale-omar
8. The Ol’ Dipsy Doodle (Barley Wine)
7. Kenesaw Mountain Lambic
6. Citra Gaston IPA
4. Wit By Pitch
3. Lawrie (Clearly, a Brett beer)
2. Rally Cap (Actually a good name, which would be an excellent playoff beer)
1. Doug Ault-bier.