Six great local beers for your Philadelphia Union season opener tailgate

Six great local beers for your Philadelphia Union season opener tailgate

For many Philly sports fans, few things compare to taking an afternoon off from work and heading down South Broad for the Phillies' home opener. No one needs any reminders that winter can be brutal here, and one weekday afternoon, even when it happens to be chilly and rainy, is still the mile marker where our lives switch back to a pattern of proper outdoor drinking that can last straight through Eagles season.

These days, the tailgating season opens even earlier for those of us who are five-for-five fans, with the Union starting their campaigns at PPL Park every March. Whether or not soccer's your thing, the tailgating they do in the lots along the banks of the Delaware is a great time. This Saturday, the Union faithful will file in to open the club's fifth season, fire up the grills, kick the ball around, and throw down a few brews. With the weather expected to be near 60 degrees and precipitation-free and the Union brimming with a new level of talent, we're ready to fill the cooler and throw some meat on a tiny grill.

Steve will be along with a look at how the U match up with the New England Revolution, but to get a jump on the weekend planning, we're gonna start with our recommendations for some great local beer options to kick off the season. We're not going to bog this post down with tasting notes, mouthfeel, nose, and ingredients lists—just why they merit a spot in your Igloo.

Tröegs Cultivator Helles Bock 

A new addition to the local scene, Cultivator is Tröegs' latest seasonal offering.
Why We Like It: This is a crowd pleaser, smooth and malty. The label chats up the fresh hops that mark the season, but don't brace for the bitterness this may evoke, as Cultivator trends more toward its toasty grains. A perhaps underrated style, bocks are very accessible, yet when done this well, can satisfy a refined beer palate.
ABV: A deceptive 6.9%
Pair With: Your face.

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Sly Fox Pikeland Pils
A new-world take on an old-world classic.
Why We Like It: Here at The700Level, we're NOTHING if not responsible, respectful tailgaters. And nothing packs out easier than craft brew cans, a trend gaining popularity around the country and spearheaded locally by Sly Fox. Last year, they introduced a rebellious full-mouth can. While packaging gimmicks like the swirl-neck Miller Lite bottles are kind of a laugh, this one is relatively functional. Oh and the beer is damn good too. Also very accessible, this 2-time GABF Gold and 1-time Bronze Medal winning German malt/Czech hop combo should work well for most crowds.
ABV: 4.9%
Pair with: Other Sly Fox canned heat. Want something with more bite? Climb the hop ladder to Phoenix Pale Ale and 113 IPA. Or, take it down a notch to the delicious Helles. Another Helles on this list? Hell yes.

Victory DirtWolf Double IPA

The boys from Downingtown took their time in crafting a new full-time hopmonster, and it was worth it. You know your beer speaks for itself when you can have "dirt" in its name without concern.
Why We Like It: Because we love hops, and this is packed with a spectrum from floral to citrusy to piney, all at once. It's hard to live up to the expectation level Victory set with its longstanding regulars, seasonals, and specialty brews, not to mention taking the masterful Hop Wallop out of circulation for a few years to make room for this newcomer, but DirtWolf hits the mark for us.

ABV: 8.7%
Pair With: Don't bother. Your tongue, gums, and the roof of your mouth will be soaked in Citra, Simcoe, Chinook, and Mosaic. Or, you can go with what Victory recommends, which just so happens to be what you're likely to have on hand anyway: burgers, BBQ, and... hard cheeses.

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Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale
A Philly classic and regular award-winner since 2000.
Why We Like It: YPA (not to be confused with YSA) brings tasty Simcoe and should satisfy all but the ardent hop haters in your game of washers, coming in well below the IBUs of the increasingly pungent I-PAs gaining popularity these days.
ABV: 4.6%
Pair With: Your undying need for refreshment.
(Side Note: Yards recently introduced a Rye IPA, but we haven't been able to get our hands on it yet. If you're bringing it to the lots, save one for us and you could have a beer bottle you once owned featured on Instagram.)
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Philadelphia Brewing Company Kenzinger
Our list a bit stuffy for you? Kenzinger should loosen things up a bit.
Why We Like It: Straightforward, without an ounce of pretension. A light, crisp pilsner, it meets the style we like for some day drinking, and won't cost as much as some of the other options. Yeah we loaded this list up with the Helles variety, but it's a great style for tailgating, and trying this side by side with the others on this list will show you how far that term is being stretched on this side of the pond.
ABV: 4.5%
Pair With: A shot of whiskey.

Photo by Tin & ZZ

Dogfish Head Burton Baton

The easiest way to add variety to this Helles-laden list is to bring Sam Calgione into the mix.

Why We Like It: It's big, it's boozy, and it's blissful. An English-style old ale and an imperial IPA are brewed and fermented separately, then blended in an oak tank. Burton Baton almost shouldn't work, but somehow the hops still pop despite the blend drawing out the flavors of the wood vessel. And at 10%, it's quite… functional. Not your traditional tailgater, but not everyone wants to slam the lighter end of the spectrum before filing in. We originally thought to put the seasonal Piercing Pils on this list, but it may be hard to find this side of February (fresh, anyway).
ABV: 10%
Pair With: A comfortable chair.


Finally, a Nod to Our Opponents' Regional Beer 
Boston has no shortage of good brewing going on, but to represent the New England beer Revolution on this list, we're going a bit farther north. Several hours farther up 95, actually, to Portland powerhouse Allagash Brewing Company. Although their brand new Saison offering is tops on our list of beers to try as soon as we can, it's not on the market yet, with a public launch of March 21. We're putting it here as a bookmark to come back to for the second home match, March 29 hosting Montreal. Allagash has gotten blissfully easy to find in Philly and its burbs. Their White is remarkably approachable, as are their Dubbel and Tripel, but the Curieux, Confluence, and Interlude will class up your tailgate in a hurry. Elite bottleshops and growler fillers like nearby Pinocchio's in Media and 320 Market in Swarthmore should have some of these, without the need to buy a whole case.

This is by no means a "Top 6" but rather a list of beers we really, really want to drink tomorrow that are made within a reasonable drive, and should pretty easy to get your hand on before you get to 291.  We're not beer experts. Hell, we're not even sports experts. But we love 'em both, together whenever possible.

So what are you planning to bring?

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

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Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT — Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting — and Howard keeps struggling — the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve got a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip — three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them, they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters, they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May (see story).
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.