Baseball Bat IPA

Thursday was a rare day off for the San Francisco Giants and an even rarer off day at home.  For one Giants pitcher, this meant a chance to walk around his new neighborhood, followed by an afternoon nap, time with his baby girl and a chance for dinner with his wife, one of only about ten they can share during the baseball season due to the laborious Major League schedule.

And on this night, Shane Loux took his wife and child to 21st Amendment Brewpub to try a new IPA at a benefit for Hops For Heros, assisting veterans and their families.

Shane Loux
SF Giants pitcher Shane Loux tries the Homefront IPA

Shane was at 21A because he was invited to attend a charity auction event by his teammate Javy Lopez. Now, it’s not all that unusual to see charity events where the local sports team has donated items for auction. But what made this so interesting was the literal blending of craft beer and baseball. Yes, I said literal and meant literal.

Game bat and brew bats
Game bat and maple brew bats awaiting auction

Chris Ray, former Giants pitcher and current aspiring professional brewer, started Hops For Heroes to offer support to returning soldiers and their families. While with the Seattle Mariners, Ray took his homebrewing hobby to the next level in 2011, collaborating with Fremont Brewery in Seattle to brew the first batch of Homefront IPA, conditioned on maple wood baseball bats.  All sales of the beer went to his newly founded charity.

This year, Ray and his brother are in the brewing business. He invited six breweries around the country to join their Center of the Universe Brewing in Ashland, Virginia, in simultaneously brewing the Homefront charity beer.  San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery, along with Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Fremont Brewery in Seattle, Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis, Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston, and SlyFox Beer in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, eagerly pitched in.

Chris Ray’s recipe was for an “East Coast-style IPA” made with oranges, conditioned on bats. The Louisville Slugger Company, maker of many of the baseball bats used by kids and pros, donated unvarnished maple bats to use in the fermenters during the brewing process.  When the beer was finished, the bats were dried out to be auctioned off at each of the six breweries.

21st Amendment’s award-winning brewer, Zambo (he does have a full name but prefers this moniker), said that when the bats were added to the tank, they immediately floated to the top. When he racked the beer to empty the tank, they laid themselves out horizontally, perfectly arranged in the cone.  “The bats were bleeding beer out of their pores for days,” said Zambo. By auction night, some still had moist spots and a faint beery aroma.

O'Sullivan and Lopez
21st Amendment owner Shaun O’Sullivan and SF Giants pitcher Javy Lopez

The visit to 21st Amendment’s brew pub was a first for both Lopez and Loux, even though it’s located only a couple of blocks from their home park. Both sampled the Homefront IPA, which was a clearly a hit with IPA fans.  When asked what he thought, Loux said, “When you get a non-beer drinker to like a beer, that says something.” Truth be told, however, Loux is not a hophead, and he said his favorite of the night was the 21A stout.

The loft at 21st Amendment was crowded and buzzing all evening as the 21A owners, Shaun O’Sullivan and Nico Freccia, greeted guests and brewer Zambo emceed the evening. He and Lopez took turns exhorting the crowd to bid and bid again.  The auction included bats from the brew, a game-used Buster Posey bat autographed by many of his teammates (used only for hitting, not brewing), along with game tickets donated by Lopez and an autographed Brian Wilson gnome. All told they raised over $4,500 via the silent auction.

All proceeds from sales of the beer will also be donated to the charity.  It’s worth a trip down to 2nd Street to try this smooth, tasty IPA. There is a pleasant fruity note contributed by the addition of oranges, countered by a dry finish supported by the maple wood.  When it’s gone, it’s gone, until perhaps next year if 21A is again chosen to be a partner for the 2013 brewing.

21A crew and ballplayers
21st Amendment Brewpub crew and Javy Lopez (center) with a brew bat

More photos including some close-ups of the bats can be found in the Beer By BART Flickr set.

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

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