Back in October, I visited Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery, which was then the newest brewery in South Carolina. Located in the Hub City Tap House in my hometown of Spartanburg, this new development in the local craft beer and cider scene excited me, so I set up a conversation with brewer and proprietor Kolby Garrison.
As you can see in the piece I wrote on the newly-minted brewery and cidery, I was most impressed with the scope of the operation, but I have to admit I was a little skeptical at the ambitious plans Garrison and partner Michael Willcox had. The plan is to brew both beer and cider while, to use their own social media slogan, making absurd the norm.
It wasn’t until almost three months later that I was able to return to the Tap House and finally get to try the offerings on hand. I sat down, had a five-beer flight and any skepticism I might have had before was quickly erased as I tried each offering. I sampled the Flag Series, South Africa: Rooi Oë cider, the Liar (AKA Honeydeew Pylsner), Hot Passion!: AKA Passionné Épicé French Saison, the Oval Series, Wisconsin: WI cider and Snow Pancakes. Granted, these aren’t all the styles I would normally order, but they were all well-crafted and caught my attention. And from the looks of things at the Tap House that day, business was going very well.
Before I left, Garrison informed me of the next beer that would be coming off the line in a week, a beer made with baseball bats. As both a huge beer and baseball fan, I was intrigued and didn’t quite know what to make of it. He saw me coming for sure, and nine days into the New Year I was back.
The new beer, called Phoenix Ryesing (Rookie Year 2015), was on tap and it is very good. It’s a rye ESB, and I was happy to talk to Garrison to get the story behind the beer made with baseball bats from Phoenix Bats. Garrison explained:
It’s a rye ESB. It could fall into the smoked beer category or the wood-aged category. We’re going to go with rye ESB. It’s maple, birch and ash bats from Phoenix Bats just north of Columbus, OH [in Plain City]. They are the largest US-owned bat manufacturer that is Major League Baseball approved. All of the bats we used for this are Major League approved baseball bats. They were roasted at the local pizza company, Venus Pie. They were roasted off there and then put in the boil for 30 minutes and then we let them sit in the fermenter for 14 days. So the beer takes on a light wood characteristic, almost reminiscent of a bourbon barrel aged but without the bourbon [and] with baseball bats.
Venus Pie became part of the collaboration because they have ovens big enough for the bats, which ended up being nine bats for 90 gallons. The finished product is very good and extremely drinkable. Garrison was also proud of his creation and explained, “with everything we’ve ever done, every beer, every cider that we’ve ever made, I think stylistically and objectively this is the beer we’ve ever made. I think this took us from local brewery to [something we can enter at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.]”
The final plan for the bats is to use them to give back to the community. As Garrison explained, “the bats are all unique. They all have the same thing written on them but Michael and I will sign them and will date them and then we’re going to auction them off for a local charity that is for youth sports.”
Very exciting and with Phoenix Ryesing (Rookie Year 2015), Ciclops Cyderi and Brewery has proven that you can make a great beer, have fun and give back to the community all at the same time. Pitchers and Catchers report in a month, and I find myself being even more excited for baseball after having learned the story of the baseball bat inspired beer Phoenix Ryesing. Let’s play ball, and drink beer!
Harris can be found on Twitter @ohkiv where he is often the ornery, old guy talking (sometimes in German) about baseball, music and beer. He takes full responsibility and makes no apologies for the title of this post.