Yes, you read that right; it’s a double-e and not a misspelling of “Bears.” And while the latter is most synonymous with the professional football team in Chicago, you could also take it to mean that the Northsiders had grown up. But it was indeed my intent to turn bear Cubs in beer Cubs. Just wanted to clear up any confusion there.
I thoroughly enjoy reading hard-hitting pieces about the Cubs and baseball in general, learning about the way this team is leveraging market inefficiencies in an effort to improve upon mistakes of the past. I like researching predictive metrics in order to either set or temper my expectations of prospects and I love reviewing reactive stats to help explain why a given player was performed the way he did.
You can find all of that here at Cubs Insider. But I’m also a guy who likes to entertain and be entertained, which sometimes involves more than a little whimsy and absurdity. With that in mind, I absolutely fell in love with a topic suggested to me via Twitter: Compare Cubs players and prospects to microbrews (thanks, Eric Lazzari!).
Many may scoff at the notion or at my selections, but that’s part of the fun of it. But as a smarter-than-anyone houseboy who believes that anyone who disagrees with him is dumb, and a fan of Jay Cutler to boot, I will preemptively address any criticism of the topic with: Whooooo caaaaaares?
In all semi-seriousness though, I can’t think of any better way to enjoy myself than to combine the Cubs and craft beer. I guess that’s one think Crane Kenney and I have in common, though that realization just made me throw up in my mouth a little. So without further ado, let’s anthropomorphize some barley sodas!
Anthony Rizzo – Lagunitas IPA
This NorCal product is pretty universally regarded as a great beer, renowned for its balance and sweet finish. Unlike the increasing trend in American IPA’s, it doesn’t seek to go over the top with bitterness or ABV. Rather, it’s a clean, simple brew with an unassuming name and label.
Likewise, Rizzo has balanced his stellar defense with what has become perhaps the best bat in the league among his peers at first base. He’s a leader both on the field and off, yet he does it without a great deal of fanfare. He’s understated but very consistent and Cubs fans enjoy what he provides from start to finish.
Other beers receiving consideration: Ballast Point Sculpin, Cigar City Jai Alai
Starlin Castro – Sam Adams Boston Lager
A lot of craft beer snobs might stare down their noses at the flagship of the Boston Beer Company, but it’s impossible to argue with the success Jim Koch has achieved while standing on the broad shoulders of this giant. The fact of the matter is that the microbrew industry as we know it wouldn’t exist without Sam. It’s a really good beer that was ahead of its time.
Castro was also a trailblazer, breaking into the league before he had finished his second decade of life and taking the Cubs by storm. But as more and more young prospects have come along, his talent and importance seem to have been overlooked to a great degree.
Other beer: Guinness
Travis Wood – Killian’s Irish Red
A Coors product passed off as a spawn of the Emerald Isle, Killian’s was a good beer when you didn’t know any better. Then reality set in and it became clear that there were many better options on the market, some of which had a bit more staying power.
Travis Wood looked at one point like a quasi-ace, the kind of guy you could pencil in at the number 2 spot in the rotation. But as the lefty’s 2014 season wore on, it became apparent that his previous year’s results may have simply been a fluke.
Other beers: Yuengling, Heineken
Jake Arrieta – Stone “Enjoy By” IPA
Stone Brewing is known for their gargoyle imagery and irreverent descriptions. Oh, and really good beer too. Among those is Enjoy By, “a devastatingly fresh double IPA. While freshness is a key component of many beers – especially big, citrusy, floral IPAs – we’ve taken it further, a lot further, in this IPA. You see, we specifically brewed it NOT to last.”
Sounds a little like Arrieta to me. He’s been really, really good for the Cubs, but I still have this nagging feeling that that might not last forever. At the very least, his shelf life in games has been an issue at times and he still has yet to reach 160 innings in a major league season.
Other beer: Coors Banquet
Kris Bryant – Three Floyds Zombie Dust
This is a beer that has achieved cult status and is highly sought-after by beer aficionados due to its superior taste and limited availability. Of course, much of the hype surrounding Zombie Dust has been accompanied by frustration due to the perception that the brewery has intentionally restricted its distribution. While FFF vehemently denies this rumor, claiming that it’s a matter of production that prevents Cenotaph from being more widely available.
Still, it’s not uncommon to see cases of Robert the Bruce or Pride and Joy collecting dust while ZD is limited to 3-bottle-at-a-time sales on delivery days, leading many to wonder whether the brewery would be better off shifting resources. But then, that would take a little shine off of the beer currently ranked 10th overall and 1st among pale ales in the entire nation. Then again, American Double IPA’s occupy 8 of the to 10 spots, so there’s an inherent bias among the voters
That story is all too familiar for Cubs fans, only with KB instead of ZD and Epstoyer instead of Three Floyds. Regardless of the reasons, it’s difficult to see such elite talent anywhere other than Wrigley Field. The good news is that Bryant will be up with the Cubs before too long and he won’t run out as quickly as his Citra-hopped counterpart.
Other beer: Heady Topper
Coghlan – Miller Lite
Ah, Lite. Tastes great, less filling. A nice option when you’re hunkering down for some good old-fashioned volume drinking, but not really a great option if you’re looking to actually enjoy the beer you’re drinking. I’m still wondering how something that claims to be “triple-hops brewed” possesses an utter lack of hop aroma, flavor, or bitterness. You’re not embarrassed to have it in your fridge, but shouldn’t be the go-to.
Coghlan has been a nice player for a really bad team, the kind of guy who you like to have around to spell one of a set of better outfielders. He had a resurgent year in 2014, but a regression to the mean appears much more likely than a continuation of a career that began with an ROY award.
Other beers: Bud Light, Coors Light
Soler – Sublimely Self Righteous
Another Stone entry, SSR is a black IPA and, as such, is somewhat mysterious and experimental. The mere existence of this style has been open to a bit of debate and has even been held in contempt by some, but there’s no denying (okay, I’m sure some would deny) that when done right, black IPA’s are money.
A Cuban defector without a lot of accumulated scouting, Soler engendered mixed reviews throughout his MiLB tenure. He was alternately lazy and talented, possessed of a big frame and a short fuse, his past and future shrouded in mystery. But all he did from the moment he was called up to Chicago was rake, shedding a little light on his potential with the Cubs.
Other beers: Utah Sage Saison, Norse Legend
Kyle Hendricks – Fat Tire
Prior to trying my first Fat Tire, I had heard some pretty poor reviews of New Belgium’s flagship beer. An amber with a biscuity, toasty malt profile and clean hop freshness, Fat Tire coasts along smoothly without a lot of effort of trappings. I enjoyed it from the start, particularly the little nuances in the flavor. However, I would highly advise against drinking this beer after an IPA. Trust me.
Hendricks too seems to cruise along, pitching instead of throwing. He doesn’t draw oohs and ahs and he doesn’t miss a lot of bats; he works quick but he doesn’t hurry. And despite what scouts have said about him along the way, I’ve really enjoyed watching Kyle Hendricks work.
Other beer: Dos Equis Ambar
Edwin Jackson – Any Ice Beer
Milwaukee’s Best (Beast) Ice, Natural (Natty) Ice, Bud Ice, Ice House…the list goes on. But the trouble with that is that it started in the first place. Even as a snob, I can typically finish off even something I consider an undesirable beer. But when my wife’s Uncle Frank, whose sensibilities run directly counter to this list of nine beers Americans no longer drink, handed me a Beast Ice, I had to dump the thing.
I can’t say much about E-Jax that hasn’t been said about Beast, so I’ll not waste time on it.
Other beers: n/a
Javier Baez – Stella Artois
Like Killians, Stella is a beer that you’d think was good if you didn’t know any better. Thing is, they advertise it with a glass blower creating the perfect chalice, the only vessel worthy of carrying this golden nectar from the tap to the tongues of the well-dressed and erudite. Trouble is, the reality pales in comparison to the fantasy and the results are far less attractive than the ads make it seem. Their waffles might be awesome, but the Belgians are trolling hard with this offering.
Javy’s swing is sexy as hell, but its results in his limited stint with the Cubs were anything but. The good news is that he still has the time and ability to elevate this comparison to any number of Belgian beers that actually good, though I’m generally not a fan of the esters and phenols present in many of the classic offerings. The fact remains that Baez is more style than substance at this early stage.
Other beer: Shock Top (mainly because it’s hyped as a craft beer while failing to really live up to the name)
This list could continue on, but I think now’s a good time to leave off. I’m interested to hear your reactions and to find out what comparisons you’d make for these and other Cubs. How would you characterize some of the all-time greats like Sandberg, Santo, Banks and Williams? What about Sosa, Grace, and more?
Looking forward to the comments.