The Matt Harvey Days Were Fun Weren’t They?

Matt Harvey deserves a tribute video, and an ovation from Mets fans, surely. He literally gave a rib trying to pitch for the Mets, and was a fireballing star for a few years there. Top of the world so to speak. That’s fun.

We’re perhaps making too much of his return here. It’s fun that we’ll get to see him again, but this isn’t aging veteran returning in the sunset of his career, nor is it talented free agent the Mets let get away and is now returning to threaten them. It’s a pitcher that had a few great and powerful years with the Mets, both on and off the field. He pitched our All Star Game, Our last World Series game, and he did so well. Maybe It’s me that’s not making enough of this.

It’s unfair to say Harvey burned bright and faded away, it wasn’t that he flew too close to the sun, or whatever metaphor you want to use. Like so many other pitchers, he was really really good, got hurt because pitching is dangerous, and hasn’t been able to recapture what made him great in the first place.

For Harvey, that’s fastball velocity. Baseball’s a game of inches after all. It’s hard to be the best of the best of the best, and while there are some pitchers that manage to adjust to fading velocity with command, or movement, that’s a different skill. Not all pitchers have them all to the same elite level. It appears Matt Harvey does not quite have it, and without the extra velocity, he’s just too hittable.

Matt Harvey started the All Star Game at Citi Field, which will forever be harkened back to every time or any time we host again. The Mets couldn’t keep 2015 going a few more games, but Harvey’s great performance in that game 5 will forever be remembered, and talked about whenever we make the World Series next.

The Harvey days were fun, and while his return this afternoon is not particularly meaningful, It gives us this time to reflect back and remember those good times. For an inning or two, before Lindor homers for the second time in the bottom of the 2nd and chases him from the game.

The New Mets On Tap Podcast

holding a NEIPA session ale in a Mets plastic cup at citi field up to the scoreboard with the field in the background

I know, I know, everyone has a Mets podcast. This one has at least 86% more beer than the average one though. We try to keep it to like 30 minutes of chat about the Mets, baseball, beer, and wherever that takes us.

It’s called Mets On Tap on all podcast platforms (including, retroactively, ones you ask me to add it to).

Please subscribe and rate (5 David Wright Stars!) and review the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, my mother’s refrigerator, and really just anywhere you can.

You can email us questions, comments, and beer recs at podcast@barleyprose.com

Many Questions Remain About A Safe Opening Day

New York has allowed ballparks to operate at 20% as of Opening Day, so the Mets have released information towards filling that capacity. Of course, they’ve sold roughly 100% of Opening Day tickets already, so now they get to attempt to redistribute those tickets to other games of the next two seasons, and re-sell, probably to season ticket holders, Opening Day and other games through early May (for now). 

The protocol for attending are, not surprisingly, sparse. They’re selling ‘pods’ of tickets, and requiring a negative COVID test or vaccination. That’s a start, but I still have a lot of questions.

  1. The guidelines mention showing proof of a negative test. How recent? And what questions are being asked to gauge potential exposure between that negative test and the day of game?
  1. Will ALL bathrooms be open, to spread out the #1 place fans bunch up? 
  1. How far apart are these pods really? Shouting “Let’s Go Mets” expels particles much farther than six feet, especially because the ground is sloped down in the direction fans shout. If I let out a “yeah!” after a strikeout, in between bites, I could easily send droplets many many rows away. 
  1. Will there be guidelines and exit procedures that properly educate and space apart pods so they don’t all try to get out the same way? The same question going in. Will gate assignments be enforced to limit bottlenecks? Where is proof of vaccination or test happening? Are we bottling up entry with even more paperwork? 
  1. If I come down with symptoms the day AFTER the game, are their tracing protocols in place for me to report that? 
  1. Less important, but still valid, if I come down with symptoms the day before, are you going to give me a hard time about straight-refunding my money? 
  1. What percentage of Citi Field staff is vaccinated? Are you requiring or assisting these employees with getting vaccinated, particularly the ones that will be doing admission or handling food? 

It _should_ be possible to have 8000 or so fans in a wide open outdoor area, with good mask usage and hopefully a large percentage of vaccinated fans. Whether it will be or not remains to be seen, and cases in NY are still holding steady and not really decreasing much, only a few weeks before Opening Day. Hopefully they’ll be extra cautious, everyone will behave and get vaccinated, and we can all find ourselves happily at a baseball game this season. 

Worried About The New Citi Field Brewery

an image of a beer at the old Mikkeller NYC brewery with the decorative pipe of flowing beer to a graphic of a drinker is changed into a question mark

A refresher since most of us haven’t been to Citi Field since 2019 at the most recent–Mikkeller NYC closed, and was replaced by Ebbs Brewery, owned and operated by mostly all the same people. It’s the same, but it’s not. They’re not serving all the interesting variety that Mikkeller did. There has been no word on the tasting room, or Citi Field distribution, things that are sneaking up on us fast. I don’t know if it’s wise to have fans at Citi Field as early as April, but the Mets are certainly selling tickets for it.

So what are we going to get? I think it’s interesting to point out how unresponsive Ebbs has been since the changeover. Maybe the one person that didn’t stick around was the media person. It’s possible that this group decided to branch out and open a second brewery, and always planned on being separate, or even abandoning, the Citi Field/Mikkeller job. If that’s the case, it’s entirely possible that Ebbs is NOT associated with the Mets in any way, and that the lease expired with Mikkeller and now sits vacant. 

I was hoping for Mets themed beers. That’s always my hope. I loved Say Hey Sally and Henry Hops as baseball beers. I loved that Mikkeller brewed a ‘United We Cheers’ beer for the The7Line. What do we have in 2021? Will Ebbs be there? Even sticking to their naming scheme and getting like a #41 IPA and a #31 Stout and a #5 Saison would’ve been at least a nod to the location. Ebbs brewery has submitted zero label requests since this news came out, their last label approval was for Stout No. 1 in August. There’s a chance label approval is just delayed due to Covid, but you’d expect something from a new brewery in that time. 

Ebbs website is not rich with information, but it does claim that they were originally brewed at Citi Field and are now brewed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That is evidence on the second idea, that they’re NOT associated with Citi Field any longer, or else why not continue brewing there? Did Bruce Wilpon kill the Mikkeller NYC deal himself, as a way to branch off to do Ebbs? This seems absurd, given that the Wilpon family owns the rights to develop the vacant lots across from Citi Field, which will theoretically be both boosted and a boost to a brewery nearby. 

Given what I’m seeing from Ebbs, this could ultimately be a boon. I loved the Mikkeller spot, and the selection, but what Ebbs is offering us is a pale comparison. This opens up a spot for someone else more interesting to come in, presumably already setup for a brewery? Or did they cannibalize it and move it to Brooklyn? From a beer standpoint, It’s certainly a difficult time to establish a presence, but I can’t imagine dropping a huge name brand, moving from an up and running location to a new one, and no longer having any physical, or ownership, connection to Citi Field is going to help things. Never mind that they’re only brewing nondescript beers. I get the idea between brewing stylistically pure beers is something that has some intrinsic value but I’m not sure how cutting all these ties and then brewing specifically non instagrammable beers is something that’s going to work. 

Mikkeller NYC was at least reasonably active on social media, but they often wouldn’t give details about their in-season schedule until almost the last minute, so it may be that we won’t know until some fan that doesn’t even remember it closed wanders around the building on Opening Day, and finds the answer. It’s also possible that there are no fans Opening Day, due to the pandemic, or that a limited 10% crowd doesn’t prompt whoever owns that space to open up. 

I’ve reached out to Ebbs but their email doesn’t work and so far they’ve been non-responsive on social media, so we remain in the dark. 

Meet The New Citi Field Brewery, Same As The Old Citi Field Brewery

Mikkeller NYC closed, in part because of the pandemic and no fans at Citi Field. That was sad, it was a great place to get great beer attached to Citi Field, and they had some baseball themed beers. It was neat! All, perhaps, is not lost. Hat tip to Metspolice for ‘scooping’ me on this.

The brewery is dead, long live the brewery. It didn’t take long for someone to announce they were moving into that space. Fountain Beverages owned EBBS Brewery, just opened up in Brooklyn, will be brewing in that location. Who are they? Let’s see, they’re owned by Bruce Wilpon and..wait, yes. That Bruce Wilpon, of you know, the Wilpons. The one that owned part of Mikkeller NYC. He’s taking a lot, if not all, of the people that worked on Mikkeller with him to EBBS. If you peep their LinkedIn pages, most of them have already been working there! KGRLogic on Twitter noted the obvious inference to Ebbets Field that I missed, which makes me roll my eyes but maybe it’s the perfect name for a ‘Brooklyn’ brewery that is actually in Queens?

There is no brewer listed there yet. Richard Saunders, who was listed as the Head Brewer at Mikkeller from Dec 2017 through October of 2020 is in the role of Director of Strategy & Product Innovation for both Fountain and EBBS. He’s been there five months now, which is roughly when they launched. I suspect this is a very similar position, and I imagine the brewers are the same. In fact, I’d wager a ton that all of EBBS beers were brewed in Mikkeller NYC. 

I have no idea what these means for baseball-themed beers, presence INSIDE Citi Field, or the selection of beers that will change at the location. I don’t know if this was actually a “woe is us, pandemic is hard on business” story, or if it’s a small part of a branding change around the Wilpons specifically. Worth remembering who has the rights (Wilpon) to develop the area around Citi Field, from which this brewery will be directly adjacent too, and likely immensely profitable as a result of.  I’m not sure Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was even ever officially part of the ownership group of the NYC location, and I’m wondering if this was some sort of licensing agreement expiration. Mikkel also has a twin brother named Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø who owns Evil Twin, and there’s some narrative around a feud between them and both wanting to open NYC locations. Evil Twin is opening a second taproom in Dumbo next year.

So, the beers. Well, Fountain has a line of hard seltzer and CBD water. It’s hard not to imagine that stuff flooding Citi Field. EBBS beers are..plain. They’re described as beers you want to drink, and

They are what they are.

With names to match.

Only a style and recipe number.

Sure, I guess. They’re plain white cans with black lettering. Throwback to 70s/80s era generic brands. Things like IPA #7. Some of the beers on their site do have small pictures on them, which seem to be simple and reminiscent of Mikkeller’s style. Are these re-branded Mikkeller beers? One, a Watermelon Gose, is also a beer that Mikkeller makes, though I’m not sure they did in NY. They’re hardly the only one, it’s a common pairing.

They’ve only got basic styles now, IPA, Stout, Gose, Lager, etc. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or just a start. Mikkeller certainly did plenty of weird experimental stuff, like this 4% session IPA called ‘It Was Professor Plum’ with blueberries, plum, and hibiscus. It feels weird to go from getting creative, to just nailing basics, but let’s see how it goes now that the whole space is officially theirs.

I’m sure there’s more drama to come here. I don’t know Fountain’s lease situation, the ownership of the building is changing hands as we know. Is Steve Cohen going to keep Aramark? Is he going to change the agreements in place? Does he like beer? Will he do construction so there’s an entrance/exit to the brewery from inside the stadium? Will he commission Mets beers and actually let them all into the park? I’m not hopeful on most of those, but it’ll be interesting to see. The limited social media that exists from them has a small undertone of sarcasm and levity to it that I think is promising at least.

Now, wear your masks, get your shots, and let’s kick this pandemic to the curb so we can actually GO to the brewery and the park.

The Beer I Saw At Citi Field in 2019

I went in through the center field gate, as I had been at Mikkeller, and headed out to center field. Big Apple Brews, the Anheuser-Busch/Inbev owned kiosk out in center field and behind home plate on the Promenade, has been going downhill for years.

Before we get to the good stuff, I actually went back and checked 2009, and perhaps saying it’s only gone downhill is overstating it a bit. Big Apple Brews was probably never good, just good as it compared to Shea Stadium. A giant island of coolers in the middle of the outfield is a pretty cool concept, and a nice addition to a stadium, but the actual beer inside appears to always have been a little lacking, even by 2009 standards, but hey, a dark beer!

Big Apple Brews in 2009

This is still just a broad listing of ABI, or ABI distributed, beers, complete with typos. Calling it Harbin Larger does seem prescient to 2019 where there are a lot of larger container beers. This picture was from April 16th, which was the third game of the opening series, not including the exhibition games against the Red Sox, so perhaps they got some editing later in the season.

Larger beers. That seems to be the theme here. Some token ABI craft, the Blue Point Mosaic IPA is not bad, and then a lot of 25oz offering. Obviously, beer geeks like myself are not the prime audience for this. For the rest of the population, being able to drink Blue Point Toasted Lager, or Kona Longboard, or Goose Island Urban Wheat is actually pretty nice.

Remember, just because you can order two 25oz Bud Light Lemon Teas at once, pound them, and come back, doesn’t mean you should.

Hang on a moment, Bud Light Lemon Tea? Do I even want to ask what that is? Moving on..I walked down to the Empire State Craft stand, in it’s usual spot. That’s the center field side of the left field corner. There’s also one just to the third base side of the Promenade plaza (or ‘Piazza’?) behind home plate.

These are the real options. These are the beers you’re going to gravitate to if you’re not just taking the best you can find within a bathroom break of your section. Baseball stadiums have really gotten on the New England Juicy IPA trend. I know Long Island City Beer Company’s Higher Burnin’ has been available in previous years, and it’s pretty good. This one’s fruity and nicely balanced. Interboro’s Premiere is an excellent beer, trending a little danker. Mikkeller’s Henry Hops is a happy baseball beer, and a real reliable IPA that you can get and drink all over the ballpark.

The new one to me was Five Boroughs Tiny Juicy IPA. I hadn’t heard much about them, but I was pleasantly surprised by this beer. It’s juicy, it’s got good mouthfeel, but also good flavor and enough bitterness to really round it out. It’s pretty much the definition of crushable at 4.2%. A great beer to just drink all day at the ballpark, provided you don’t mind paying nearly $12 for a small beer over and over again anyway.

There are some other tidbits around the park, there are actually a few taps if you search for them, but we’ll stop here. Get out to Citi Field and enjoy a beer or two. Overall there are some nice beers. There are some high-quality beers. There’s not a ton of variety though. Simple lagers, juicy IPAs, with maybe some slight variation here and there.

Citi Field Beer Review

I did not have time to scour the entire stadium yesterday, as I spent most of the pregame time at Mikkeller NYC and then had a game to watch, so there’s a chance I missed something, but I don’t think so. Finding good beer shouldn’t be something hidden.

 

First off, prices. Beers are up to $11.25 for a 12oz and $14 for a 25oz. That’s a lot. They were $7.50 when Citi Field first opened 10 years ago.

 

At Big Apple Brews the selection has been paired down over the years. It’s always been an Anheuser Busch-Inbev curated list, but now there’s less of the variety.  Mostly the light lager stuff you see everywhere: Presidente, Leffe Blond, Stella, Franzikaner, Shock Top, etc. Followed by a bunch of AB-InBev’s choice of beers from their high end line of acquired craft breweries. These are the beers they’re trying to push nationally, with a touch of local because Blue Point is under that umbrella. Their Mosaic Session Ale is a good ballpark beer.

AB-InBev "craft"

So where’s the real craft? In previous years there was a stand behind home plate on the promenade, with a few drafts and a cooler. Now it’s a Goya stand. There were a few things scattered around the park, but the two main places I found were the “Empire State Craft” stands. The one that’s existed in the left field corner on the field level remains, and there’s a new one just to the third base side of the promenade behind home plate.

This isn’t what I’d call a great selection or variety, but it’s roughly what’s been there the last few years. I had LIC’s Higher Burning and Mikkeller’s Henry Hops, and I enjoyed both. Hopefully as Mikkeller gets up and running they can sneak a few more cans into the stadium as the season goes on. I also wasn’t given the option of a cup for my beer, as I had in the past.

 

The Mikkeller NYC brewery just outside the Right Field gate, outside the stadium, was the real winner. I’ll have a more detailed review of that place coming up.

What We Know About The Brewery At Citi Field

Mikkeller NYC will open at Citi Field on Sunday. As someone craving, demanding and savoring good beer at Citi Field since its inception, you know I’m absolutely thrilled about this. 60 rotating taps at a brewery/tap room just outside the stadium, typically open before and after games? What’s not to love?

Although there is no indication they’ll be open early before Opening Day, we do have a few details, in part from an Eater post, about what’s going on. There’s a menu, which is interesting but I’ll be trying the new stuff inside the stadium first anyway. I want a draft list, and Eater only lists four beers of 60. Henry Hops and Say Hey Sally, which were inside the stadium last year, Beer Geek Parlor Coffee Stout which is their Beer Geek line using locally roasted coffee, and Fruit Face w/ Cranberry, Rhubarb and Orange, which is a Berliner Weiss, a sour wheat ale.

Amazin’ Avenue writer and editor Chris McShane has some more info in this tweet. Looking at that tap list picture it looks like the Parlor Oatmeal Coffee Stout is the only other NYC brewed beer at this time. Lots of stuff from the San Diego brewery and Mikkeller’s portfolio in general, and also a nice compliment of other breweries such as Transmitter, Industrial Arts, Night Shift and Thin Man. Highly regarded breweries. There are sours, dark beers, salty beers, big beers and little beers on this list, which is lots of fun, even if they’re not actually _in_ the ballpark. There’s also 4oz pours, which might be a responsible way to ease into a day of drinking in the sun.

I don’t know if they’ll be an expanded selection inside or not, we’ll have to wait until Opening Day for that, but there’s a new great spot to head before and after a game now, and enjoy delicious beer. That’s where you’ll find me for sure.

New Beers, Baseball-Themed, at Citi Field for 2017

A newborn has and will keep me from Citi Field as much as I’d like, but I’m still extremely excited to notice that there are a few new beers available this year.

 

First off, two excellent baseball-themed beers from Mikkeller.

The cans are designed specifically for Citi Field with the Mikkeller characters Henry and Sally portrayed as ‘1980’s era baseball-cards.’

That’s neat. Henry Hops is a modern IPA, and Say Hey Sally is a Pilsner. I love that they’re baseball names too, that’s great, and I can’t wait to get out to Citi Field to try them, maybe take a can home. This is so far the closest we’ve gotten to a Mets player themed beer.

 

Judging by Untappd check-ins, there are a few others as well. AB-InBev has been spreading around their craft portfolio a little more, as I’ve started to see more of breweries like 10 Barrel in NY/NJ. I’ve seen check-ins for Elysian’s Space Dust, and Immortal at Citi Field over the first two games.

 

Also exciting to notice is Long Island City Beer Project’s Dutch Kills, a Kolsch. Southern Tier’s Nu Skool IPA, and Sierra Nevada’s Sidecare Orange Pale. Those all sound fun.

 

There are some old favorites back, and I’m sure there are a few that I haven’t seen checked-in yet. Hopefully I’ll get out there to check them out.

 

Alas, I haven’t seen a dark beer check-in yet.