Drinks with Pat: Take me out to the ball game

Pat Evans

To celebrate the baseball season each year, the Mitten Brewing Co. releases its Peanuts & Crackjack Porter.

The release was supposed to coincide with Major League Baseball Opening Day, March 31, but with a lockout pushing the season start back a week, the brewery decided to keep the launch date. It’s a delicious, peanuty beer, so go grab a fresh draft pint or a pack of cans to go, plus a pizza while you’re at it.

The Mitten is a brewery built on the owners’ love of baseball. Max Trierweiler and Chris Andrus are childhood friends who grew up playing baseball together before opening a brewery that celebrates the sport and the Detroit Tigers.

The brewery has sponsored the West Michigan Whitecaps for years, entering a new phase this summer — see below — and regularly is involved with baseball nonprofits, including a May 20 wiffle ball game.

To celebrate the start of baseball season, I caught up with Andrus to chat about the upcoming summer.

Pat: Is Peanuts and Crackjack a way to celebrate baseball season?

Chris: Today was supposed to be Opening Day, but that all fell apart, but we stuck with the original date because we felt it was a nice way to separate the two events. It’s a lot to promote and keep straight the beer and the game at the same time.

Every year, the brewers have to scramble this time of year. It’s kind of the end of the slow times. January, February and then Peanuts comes along. It’s awesome to see them hustling — tanks full, kegs filling, trucks coming and going. It feels like 2019 in many ways — kind of the first time it has since before the pandemic. Pizza sales stayed pretty flat during the pandemic, but draft beer fell so hard.

P: So then, what’s the plan for opening day?

C: It’s just the usual watching the game in the taproom with singing the national anthem — turn all the TVs to the commentary on the Tigers game. But honestly, the bigger Opening Day will be the Whitecaps.

 P: I was going to ask about the Craft Clubhouse (the local beer concession stand at LMCU Ballpark the Mitten now sponsors).

C: The Whitecaps actually approached us when they found out Founders wasn’t renewing their deal. We’d been advertising since we opened, so we had that partnership and our beers on tap at the park through our existing relationship with Alliance Beverage. It was a natural fit. We jumped all over it.

It’s the thing my kids think is the coolest of all the things I’ve done, seeing the sign at the ballpark. We’ll have six beers all year round, named sponsorship. We’ll have our seltzer, Sparkly Anderson out there, the biggest R&D project we’ve had, a charity tie in with Sparky’s charity, CATCH.

P: What else is happening this summer?

C: I honestly believe, based on last summer and looking at recession recoveries from the past, this summer will be meteoric for hospitality. We have a good idea the next COVID wave will come in November, so it’s about having the biggest, best summer we can, not knowing what happens beyond that.

Despite inflation and supply chain shortages, people are out and about, spending money, having the experiences they missed out on the past two years. Every week that goes by, we have a week better than the last, so it’s going to be an amazing summer. So with that and the Whitecaps, it will be extra special.

Fun spicy treats at Meijer

In other news, I love hot sauces, and I recently acquired a variety pack of Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce, which is available at Meijer stores, online and other retailers across the country.

The Original and Green Jalapeño & Serrano are fine, flavorful sauces. The real gems, though, are the three hit wonders — a spicy lineup of tasty, yet sweat-inducing sauces: Trinidad Scorpion, Ghost Pepper and Carolina Reaper.

Lola’s also makes salsas, bloody mary mix and spicy biscuits.

What I’ve been sipping on

Well, this past week was Oberon Day, so I had to have one of those, otherwise the seasons wouldn’t switch over.

But honestly, I’ve been really enjoying St. Patrick’s Day-inspired cocktails still, which I guess now that we’re flipping into April, I should switch. But I don’t think I will for a little. Here’s a fun one from Bushmills (which actually is celebrating the new season of Peaky Blinders coming out soon):

The Shelby Sour

2 ounces Bushmills Original

.75 ounce orange liqueur

.50 ounce lemon juice

.25 ounce simple syrup

1 mint sprig

  • Combine ingredients in shaker with ice.
  • Shake.
  • Pour over ice in rocks glass.
  • Garnish with mint and orange peel.

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