Much like my first fantasy baseball draft, I recall doing research before choosing my first fantasy beer team but don't really recall what that research was. At least one of my brewery choices was made with an air of defiance, only to be immediately followed by the cold shower of regret -- mirroring my first ever baseball draft back in 2009 when I chose David Wright with the second overall pick over Albert Pujols.
Like many of the baseball draft day decisions I've made over the years, some of the choices for my first fantasy beer team were made with my mind, some were made with my heart, and some were made in ways that I can't exactly explain because I don't exactly remember why I chose them. At some point though, I came up with an approach or a strategy, theories really, but can't actually explain how I came up them or if that strategy is based on real things.
I enjoy making bold claims that are based on things that could be researched, but -- like a snake eating its own tail -- actually researching them would take away from the boldness. I also enjoy hedging my bets and tend to only apply my bold claims to about half of my picks in fear that the bold claims I could have researched to determine their validity are in fact completely wrong (which is part of the reason I didn’t research them in the first place – my own ineptitude is the last person I want to face in a staring contest).
So without further blabbering, I present to you my brewery selections for my inaugural fantasy beer team, which I will simply call 'Beer On My Shirt' (although 'Beer Mr. Fantasy' certainly was under serious consideration).
TIER ONE: Mikkeller
I chose Mikkeller because, like the year I avoided Albert Pujols, I wanted to avoid Stone. Stone was the obvious pick but I wondered how many new releases I could expect given that Enjoy By would not count. I figured I could probably count on just as many, if not more, from Mikkeller, and with a greater variety in style. Within days of submitting my team, I received several fancy notifications via social media from Stone about new releases.
I have received no such news of new releases from Mikkeller. However, I still feel good about the pick because I have received several notifications of Mikkeller brewing new beers at different places with different people. I have no idea when they plan on releasing these new beers but I imagine it is soon. Collaborations count, right? Please tell me collaborations count.
(One of theories I employed was that a brewery with a strong history of collaborative brews was more likely to have more new releases in our scoring period.)
TIER TWO: Tired Hands
First, we (Tired Hands and I) are in the same state – Pennsylvania. Second, they are amazing. I haven't actually been there yet but it is what I have heard. Hopefully, this pick will provide the extra motivation I need to get down there and try some of their beers. Also, my main theory was to find high BAR breweries with very, very limited distribution, like “only available at the brew pub”, or in the case of Tired Hands, their brew-cafe.
I imagine, or theorize, that a brewery with very limited distribution brews in smaller batches, only 12 kegs at a time in the case of Tired Hands, would allow for more experimentation and more releases (this idea is in agreement with Alex Fossi's Strategy Hypothesis #1). Also, I would think that checking in a beer at the location where it is brewed would inflate the rating. Although fellow BeerGraph writer Matt Murphy looked at this idea awhile back (“How Does Location Influence Beer Ratings”) and found that exactly the opposite is true, I again theorize that a beer being checked in at what is considered to be not only the best brewer in PA, but also one of the best in the country, and dare I say the world, would positively impact the ratings that beer would receive – a large majority of Tired Hands beers that are being checked in are part of the larger event of being there at Tired Hands. Essentially, excellent brewers with limited distribution, like Tired Hands, Hill Farmstead, and Alpine, just to name a few, are probably the exceptions to the findings reflected by the data in Matt's article.
Also, they brewed a beer named after a Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham) song. Apparently they know him. This excites me.
TIER THREE: Evil Twin; Alpine
I chose Alpine for essentially all the sames reasons I mentioned for Tired Hands with the exception of the same state thing and the Bonnie Prince Billy thing. This is my “man I really wish I could go there but probably won't get to any time soon” pick.
I chose Evil Twin because I love their beers (see the Molotov Cocktail review below) and even though our Leaderboards generally don't hold them in the high regard that I do, I just had to have them on my team. Also, Jeppe of Evil Twin is the brother of Mikkel from Mikkeller. Perhaps this idea influenced the choicee of Evil Twin, or perhaps it influenced my choice of Mikkeller – I can't be sure. This is the baseball equivalent of having both Upton brothers on my fantasy baseball team back in 2011 when both were having career seasons. And that sounds like something I want.
Baseball analogies aside, I think they offer similar upside to Mikkeller in potential quantity of new releases, different styles, and decent BAR ratings.
TIER FOUR: Sixpoint; Kane
Sixpoint has special badges and simulcast (simultap) internet events for their new releases. Those things may be more exciting for some than others, but regardless they have a relationship of some sort with Untappd, the site/app that we will be using to gather the data for our scoring. Whether or not this has a positive impact on their ratings remains to be seen, but their recent new releases have come with a decent amount of buzz and for the most part they do a nice job of living up to that hype. I've had quite a few of their beers and I have yet to find one that I've considered bad or that I wouldn't happily drink again.
I have no idea why I chose Kane. I knew/know nothing/little about them. They are in New Jersey and fall into that very limited distribution model but don't have nearly the track record of some of the others that I mentioned. They are, however, relatively new and have produced a decent amount of beer in a short amount of time. Roughly half of them have a positive BAR, so who knows. Looks like they just released an American Barleywine called Vengeful Heart on Valentines Day, which as of writing this has 31 check-ins with an average rating of 3.70. Very small sample, so who knows. Any info about this brewery would be appreciated!
At this point, if my team has a weakness it will be BAR, due to the limited distribution of a majority of the brewers I chose. Hopefully, my squad will put out some highly rated beers during the scoring period to make up for that. I have chosen the brewery that will fill my utility spot, but I don't think I am going to reveal that here. I will say that it fits the mold of a great brewery with distribution so limited that their beers can only be had on site.
(We could play a Utility Brewery Guessing Game in the comments if you like. Or a "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours" sort of thing.)
Molotov Cocktail, Evil Twin Brewing
Appearance = 4.25/5
Has a reddish/orange/brown hazy look with about a finger of off white head.
Smell = 4.5/5
Sweet booze, sweet citrus, and pine. Very fragrant.
Taste = 4.5/5
Tropical fruit and caramel – sweet but not in as much of a malt way that I expected. Sweet and bitter at the same time – like an apple crossed with a grapefruit. The malt sweetness becomes more noticeable on the back of the tongue and in the aftertaste as the bitterness starts to build. The alcohol starts to come out about halfway down the glass and adds to the flavor.
Feel = 4.25/5
Thinner than I expected but the slickness of it adds to the body somehow. There is heat in finish from the booze that builds along with the bitterness – my face is hot.
Overall = 4.5/5
The sweet bitterness on the front end of the flavor is different than any thing I've had and very enjoyable – typically I don't enjoy a sweeter DIPA. The hop and malt combination works better than expected, considering the 13% ABV – part of that may be the combination of the heat and the bitterness. Even the heat seems to have a tropical fruit vibe to it. I will definitely pick up another bottle of this.
Follow J. R. Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt