ESPN had an interesting little item today by Jim Caple entitled Pitcher Finds Good Use For Mariners’ Bats. The story concerns Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Chris Ray. In addition to pitching for the Mariners, Ray is also an avid homebrewer and has plans to open his own brewery, along with his brother Phillip, in Virginia. They’ve even picked out the name, COTU Brewing, which stands for “Center of the Universe.”
In Caple’s story, Ray is making beer using a dozen baseball bats, made of maple, for a charity beer he brewed at the nearby Fremont Brewing in Seattle. In the article, Ray is quoted about his beer.
“I’m not sure if it adds a ton of flavor, but it ties it into baseball and gives it a unique twist,” Ray said. “It might add a little bit of flavor, but maple is a hard wood — that’s why they use it for bats — so there’s not a whole lot of absorbing going on. There are a lot of beers that age on oak chips and toasted oak chips, so we just thought if it added a little flavor, great. If not, it’s a nice story.”
The beer, dubbed Homefront IPA, is a charity beer to honor American soldiers and debuted at Safeco Field this past weekend and will also be available in 22 oz. bottles beginning this week. Proceeds from sales of Homefront IPA will go to Operation Homefront, an “organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of military personnel.”
NBC Sports also had the story back in June about when the beer was first brewed. But the best account comes from Kendall Jones who writes a firsthand account of the brew day for his Washington Beer Blog in a post entitled A Relief Pitcher of Beer.
Chris Ray pulling out spent grain (photo by Kendall Jones).
After the beer was brewed, the beer was then aged on Louisville Sluggers donated by the bat company. According to Jones:
The maple bats will be used to lend some extra character to the beer. They will be added to the conditioning tanks. Some of bats will be left whole and pristine, others cut into smaller pieces to help enhance the flavor imparted on the beer. Once the beer is ready, the whole bats will be removed, dried, and autographed by Chris’ teammates. The bats will then be auctioned off to raise money for Operation Homefront.
UPDATE: The CEO of the hops company Yakima Chief, Steve Carpenter, sent me a funny link about Ray that appeared in a Seattle fan blog, U.S.S. Mariner. In the post (which I should point out at the end is revealed to be satire), Chris Ray’s enthusiasm for good beer is gently skewered.
One reliever noted that Chris Ray had gotten “pretty annoying” by foisting dry-hopped XIPAs on his teammates, whose tastes tended towards lagers and mixed drinks. Eventually, the aspiring brewer went down with an injury and is now on the 15 day disabled list. Another pitcher confessed he was excited for the change. “Look, it’s finally warm out, I want to go out with my girlfriend and have something fun. I like Chris, but he was always rambling on about ‘simcoe’ and ‘amarillo’ and I was thinking he was talking about the Texas League or something, but no, he’s just explaining — again — why the beer I’m drinking is stupid.”