Among the most frustrating things to stop and start during the pandemic have been professional sports.
The NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB all saw major disruptions in 2020, sapping away a usually reliable form of enjoyment for fans and adding to the uncertainty of everyday life. Ask anyone who played fantasy football in the fall and they’ll tell you the game was more a maddening distraction than a welcome one.
Two local teams who weathered the disruption were Boston’s Bruins and Celtics. Last January, as the NHL season charged toward the playoffs, I tagged along with Bruins forward Chris Wagner as he brewed a beer at Harpoon’s Seaport brewery. Released in mid-February, Don’t Poke the Bear black-and-golden ale was designed for fans to drink during a season that paused play on March 12; cans of the beer lingered on shelves of Greater Boston liquor stores, in some cases through the summer, due to the unfortunate timing of the release.
But Bruins hockey is back, as of last Thursday, and so is a new Bruins beer for 2021. Harpoon Don’t Poke the Bears is a riff on the original, with a twist. Fans voted between Wagner’s recipe, an IPA, and the pilsner of teammate and Weymouth native Charlie Coyle. After 10,000 fan votes, Coyle’s Black & Gold Pils was announced as the winning brew. Brewed at 5.1 percent ABV with a touch of black honey, it’s designed to be clean, light, and subtly sweet. The beer is scheduled to be brewed in February, and will be available throughout New England wherever Harpoon beers are distributed.
Not to be outdone, the Celtics, too, have been busy preparing a special beer release. After partnering with Framingham’s family-owned Jack’s Abby last summer, the plan was to release a brew in time for the 2020-21 NBA season. And that’s pretty much what happened, despite the last two NBA seasons blurring together because of COVID, and some early hiccups with the virus and NBA scheduling.
Jack’s Abby Pride and Parquet is the product of some Red Auerbach-level tinkering; brewers began with an older recipe for a beer called Calyptra and tweaked it, dialing back the hops in Jack’s Abby’s signature-style brew, the India pale lager, in several batches along the way (I was fortunate enough to be a part of the tasting and feedback process; the initial batches would have pleased IPA fans, but the final formula is more crowd-pleasing). The result is an easy-drinking, 5.7 percent ABV lager that should pair nicely with Jayson Tatum’s step-back.
Since he lost the fan vote, Wagner is tasked with brewing Coyle’s beer at Harpoon sometime next month. The Celtics’ beer is on shelves now as a year-round release.