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?

Fellow rookies predict Ben Simmons to come in 3rd for ROY award

Fellow rookies predict Ben Simmons to come in 3rd for ROY award

Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram headlined this year’s draft. Now that the players are nearing training camp, they are looking ahead to how their class will fair in the upcoming season. 

NBA.com talked to 38 rookies at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot this month to get their takes on their counterparts.

Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot were named in the majority of the responses. Below are the categories in which the Sixers' rookies garnered votes. 

2016-17 Rookie of the Year
1. Kris Dunn (Timberwolves): 29.0 percent
2. Ingram (Lakers): 25.8 percent
3. Simmons (Sixers): 19.4 percent
Embiid and Saric also received votes

Best career
1. Ingram (Lakers): 26.7 percent
2. Dunn (Timberwolves): 16.7 percent 
3. Buddy Hield (Pelicans): 13.3 percent
Tie-4. Dragan Bender (Suns), Jaylen Brown (Celtics), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Simmons: 6.7 percent
Dario Saric also received votes

Most athletic
1. Brown (Celtics): 38.7 percent
2. Brice Johnson (Clippers): 16.1 percent
3. Marquese Chriss (Suns): 9.7 percent
Tie-4. Malik Beasley (Nuggets), Kay Felder (Cavs), Gary Payton II (Rockets): 6.5 percent
Simmons also received votes

Best shooter
1. Hield (Pelicans): 65.7 percent
2. Murray (Nuggets): 20.0 percent
Luwawu-Cabarrot also received votes

Best playmaker
1. Dunn (Timberwolves): 29.4 percent
2. Simmons (Sixers): 26.5 percent
3. Tyler Ulis (Suns): 20.6 percent
4. Denzel Valentine (Bulls): 8.8 percent
5. Felder (Cavs): 5.9 percent
Saric also received votes

Funniest
1. Dunn (Timberwolves): 15.2 percent
Tie-2. Diamond Stone (Clippers), Denzel Valentine (Bulls): 12.1 percent
Tie-4. Brice Johnson (Clippers), Taurean Prince (Hawks), Ivica Zubac: 6.1 percent
Luwawu-Cabarrot and Simmons also received votes. Embiid ranked first in this category when he was drafted in 2014. 

The end is near: Pete Mackanin to cut back Ryan Howard's playing time

The end is near: Pete Mackanin to cut back Ryan Howard's playing time

Pete Mackanin has picked his spots with the pitchers he has let Ryan Howard face in recent months and that helped Howard carry post-All Star break numbers like a .306 batting average and .653 slugging percentage into Tuesday’s night game against the Washington Nationals and their right-handed ace, Max Scherzer.

Scherzer is the type of power arm that Mackanin often protects Howard from.

But despite awful career numbers — 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts — against Scherzer, Howard was in the starting lineup at first base over Tommy Joseph on Tuesday night.

Listening to Mackanin explain his reasoning, one came away with the impression that Howard’s playing time is about to nosedive as he and the Phillies begin their last month together.

“Just to get him in there,” Mackanin said when asked why he was starting Howard against a pitcher who’d dominated him in the past. “I’m going to start using Joseph more. I’ll play [Howard] today and [Joseph] tomorrow and then I’ll lean on Joseph a little bit more the rest of the way.”

Why?

“To see him more,” Mackanin said. “I’m not saying I’m going to strictly play Joseph, but I have to get him as many at-bats as possible through the end of the season.”

Makes sense. The Phillies will part ways with the 36-year-old Howard after the season. Joseph, 25, has not won the first base job long term, but he has a chance to, especially if he can improve his on-base skills. His power numbers — 17 homers and a .500 slugging percentage in 250 at-bats — are excellent.

Mackanin was asked whether the decision to pull back on Howard’s playing time was his or whether it came down from above.

“It’s my own,” he said. “I think it makes sense to see Joseph as much as possible. Howie was swinging the bat extremely well. I’m just going to see if he can put something together against Scherzer. A lot of people don’t have good numbers against Scherzer anyway. Lefties at least hit him better.”

Mackanin said he wants to make sure Joseph gets plenty of at-bats against right-handed pitching down the stretch.

“I don’t want to happen to him what happened to [Darin] Ruf, where we didn’t have opportunities to get him at-bats,” Mackanin said.

While Mackanin wants to look at Joseph more, he has no intention to look at 23-year-old Rule 5 outfielder Tyler Goeddel more as the season winds down. Reserve Jimmy Paredes continued to get outfield reps with the start in left field on Tuesday night.

“I’ve seen enough of Goeddel to know — we’ve kept him this long and we’re going to keep him and we’ll see where we go next year with him,” Mackanin said. “I don’t see a need to play him, especially after he hasn’t played so much. What’s the point?

“Paredes, he’s an extra player. That’s why we got him. I’m trying to put some offense into the lineup and he’s been swinging the bat pretty well. Peter Bourjos is coming off his wrist injury; I’m just trying to get Paredes as many at-bats as possible to see if he can help us win games. But he’s not an everyday player right now here for us.”

Tim Tebow shows power in baseball tryout but clearly still needs work

Tim Tebow shows power in baseball tryout but clearly still needs work

LOS ANGELES -- Tim Tebow crushed a batting-practice fastball with a confident left-handed swing, sending it into the trees next to the scoreboard beyond right field.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback only paused an instant to appreciate his shot, and then he went right back to work on the unlikely next chapter in his unique athletic story.

Tebow took his first big swings at a baseball career Tuesday, showing off a powerful bat and other developing skills during a workout in front of dozens of major league scouts and reporters.

The 29-year-old aspiring outfielder went through drills at the University of Southern California's Dedeaux Field for over an hour, confidently chasing a dream deferred for 12 years. Declaring his football career essentially over, Tebow insists he is serious about becoming more than a baseball curiosity.

"The goal would be to have a career in the big leagues," Tebow said. "I just want to be someone to pursue what I believe in, what I'm passionate about. A lot of people will say, `But what if you fail? What if you don't make it?' Guess what? I don't have to live with regret. I did everything I could. I pushed it. I would rather be someone that could live with peace and no regret than what-if, or being scared."

Tebow's heavily muscled, 255-pound physique and 6.70-ish time in the 60-yard dash were impressive to the scouts. He also showed undeniable hitting ability with a series of line drives and long homers during batting practice.

But Tebow also showed he still needs baseball seasoning when he faced live pitching from former big-leaguers David Aardsma and Chad Smith, who repeatedly fooled him with off-speed pitches. Tebow could only grin in frustration after he fanned on a series of changeups and breaking balls.

"There is 100 percent nerves, no question about it," Tebow said. "When you're at the combine or a pro day, you have your body of work for four years, everything that you did, so it's not just that one day. Here, you might have seen me when I was 17, but you haven't seen me since. A lot goes into it, so you'd better show something. A lot of nerves, a lot of pressure, for sure."

Tebow hasn't played baseball regularly since his junior year at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. He left early to enroll at Florida, beginning a fabled college football career that led to the 2007 Heisman and two national titles for the Gators.

But 12 years ago, Tebow was a .494-hitting, all-county outfielder who loved hitting a baseball every bit as much as he loved leading a huddle.

"The second-hardest decision I ever made was giving up baseball to go to the University of Florida and play football," said Tebow, whose choice of Florida over Alabama was the toughest. "There wasn't a season that went by that it wasn't something that I thought about. When I felt like I had this opportunity, I wanted to take it and pursue it with everything I had."

A few big-league teams talked privately with Tebow after the workout, and he seems unlikely to have trouble finding an organization willing to give a chance to a celebrity with clear baseball ability, however rudimentary.

Tebow realizes he is still far from the big leagues, but he hopes to play in the instructional league in Arizona next month before heading into winter league ball, perhaps even in Latin America.

Tebow decided to pursue his baseball aspirations in earnest three months ago. He began training at a baseball school in Arizona run by Chad Moeller. The former big-league catcher saw daily improvements in Tebow, from his bat speed to his mental game.

"If I'm a team, I'm signing him," Moeller said. "I'm taking him to instructional ball. I'd get him to the Arizona Fall League and get him matched up against some good arms and see what happens. I don't think this is one you're going to take your time on, because he's not a young kid. So you're going to push him. For him and for the teams, I thought if he goes out and performs the way he could and is capable of, you could see it in a year, a year and a half, definitely in the big leagues."

Tebow hasn't played in the NFL since 2012, becoming a broadcaster and resisting attempts to move him to another football position as his quarterback career evaporated. Even while he got an extended look last year from the Philadelphia Eagles, who cut him after the preseason, Tebow said his mind already had wandered back to baseball.

"It's not about publicity," Tebow said. "It's definitely not about money. It's a pay cut to do this. Just pursue what you love, right? Regardless of what else happens. Regardless of if you fail, or if you fall on your face. If that's the worst thing that can happen, that's OK. When did that become such a bad thing? When did pursuing what you love become a bad thing, regardless of the result? For me, yeah, I'll make all the sacrifices to be the best I can."