Softball season is here, sports fans, so it’s time to consider one of the great mysteries of the game. And, no, I don’t mean why do girls throw like girls.
Joe Sixpack is puzzled more by the proper beer to consume during and/or after seven semi-sweaty innings of softball.
This is a huge concern for the ballplayer confronted with a cooler full of light, tasteless dreck that your well-meaning but clueless coach inevitably pulls from the trunk of his car.
Hey, don’t wanna bloat my players with that heavy beer, he’ll explain. Gotta keep the team in top condition.
Condition? You look at the players on most teams and you’ll see John Kruk after a weekend Cheetos binge.
If these guys are so worried about maintaining their peak physical fitness, they might want to try an athletic endeavor that requires a tad more energy than that which is expended while standing motionless on the infield dirt and idly chanting, “C’mon batter, swing.”
Softball was made for beer-guzzling. It is the one sport that can be adequately performed with a ball in one hand, a beer in the other, and no real threat of either dropping the ball or spilling the brew.
The problem is: Exactly what is the best softball beer?
I’ve given this a lot of thought and have argued the issue during postgame bull sessions with some of the finest softball guzzlers in the city.
I’m willing to listen to other opinions, but for now, this is the way I see it.
First of all, Coach is right – no heavy stuff. No brown ale or double bock, no Trappist ale or Oktoberfest.
Maybe a porter in a pinch (after all, it was originally brewed as refreshment for the working class), but certainly not a stout. Drink that stuff and you’re asking for trouble when you try to stretch a single into a double.
Secondly, softball beer must be in a can. A keg at second base requires too much running for refills.
And bottles just don’t make it on the green grass of your favorite ballfield. There is too much damn broken glass out there already, and as a responsible drinker/player, you owe it to all ballplayers to keep the playing field clean.
Unfortunately, the no-bottle rule eliminates 99 percent of all decent beer.
Gone is light-tasting weizen from Bavaria or Flemish wit. Those wheat-based ales offer a slight vanilla or orange flavor that cool the heat – an ideal beer to sip while you’re still panting after running in from the outfield.
But until Hoegaarden from Belgium or Celis from Texas arrive in a can, you’ll have to wait for the post-game party at the pub.
And forget the thirst-quenching lagers imported from hot, steamy spots like Mexico. Dos Equis is a fine brew for a summer barbecue, but it’s available only in bottles in this region. (Hunt around enough, and maybe you’ll find Tecate in a can.)
For pure refreshment, one of the best is Red Stripe from Jamaica. Last weekend, I handed a cup of the rasta-brew to Daily News Cloutster Gar Joseph at the midway point of the 10-mile Broad Street Run and saw no discernible decline in his performance. But, again, it’s not available in cans.
I’ve posed this problem to my weak-hitting colleagues on the Daily News softball team with little luck. Coach Thompson, a Pittsburgh-area transplant with a thing for Iron City, insists on inflicting us with some tasteless swill called I.C. Light. I assume my sycophant teammates force it down their throats only out of some misplaced desire to suck up to the guy.
Nonetheless, the team brew is open for discussion. Last week, the squad considered the merits of the favored brew of our nemesis, the Philadelphia Business Journal. After a hailstorm chased us from the diamond at Fairmount Park, the PBJ cracked open a case of Golden Anniversary from Koch’s brewery in Rochester, N.Y.
Refreshing, not too sweet and gently hopped.
And, best of all, it met the most important criteria of the perfect softball brew:
It was free.
The Khyber (56 S. 2nd St., Old City) reopens today after a six-month closing. New owner Stephen Simons is installing a new, 13-tap draft system and promises to maintain one of the city’s best selections of bottled beer.
The Khyber will also serve breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.