Joe Maddon wants to be the next celebrity coach in Chicago - the next Mike Ditka if you will. In the last few months, the manager of the 2016 World Series Champions has opened a restaurant, released his own line of pasta sauce through Jewel-Osco, and turned out his own craft beer through a local brewery. I'm not saying that the charismatic mastermind of the Cubs doesn't deserve to be the next Ditka-like folk hero in the Windy City (god knows he's not insufferable like "Da Coach"); however, it does seem to be a curious time to be pursuing such interests. As of the end of the 2019 season, the way things currently stand, Maddon will be a free-agent. That's right - Joe Maddon is currently a lame-duck skipper and could very well be suiting up with a different club come next spring.
While his bullpen management skills have been called into question, the team's performance has been inconsistent since '16, and his idiosyncratic style of leadership isn't everyone's cup of tea, I certainly would be sad to see him blow out of town. He's brought so much to the Chicago National League Ballclub - most importantly a World Championship - and helped to instill a winning attitude in what was previously Lovable Loser territory.
Not to mention, he's pretty good with catchphrases - "never permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure" has become something of mantra here on the North Side, since he came to town. Another one of Joe's most popular, t-shirt worthy slogans is "try not to suck." It's a self-explanatory concept that applies to both the team's play on the field, and now (as I alluded to earlier), a specialty craft beer:
Binny's Beverage Depot has partnered with Joe's Respect90 Foundation (another slogan of his which has been applied to a brand) to release "Try Not To Suck" German style lager, available in Binny's and Jewel-Osco stores across the Chicagoland area. A portion of the profits from each sale will go towards Respect 90's goal to provide children and families opportunities to develop championship attitudes through sports, academics, and community involvement. Additionally, money from each purchase will also be divided with Rags of Honor, a charity which strives to assist homeless veterans across the United States.
Heck - I'll drink to that!
Joe's lager hit store shelves in early April and apparently it was big hit, seeing as I searched for weeks before I finally found some. After striking out at all of my local Jewels - darn South Side residency - and finding both of the nearest Binny's to be out of stock, I was forced to wait. I was getting concerned too, as the product is supposedly a limited release - brewed and bottled once, then it's gone forever. However, luckily, another wave of shipments must have been made, as when I checked Binny's online databases last week, I discovered just about every single store in the franchise was now well-stocked with "Try Not To Suck."
When I made the trek out to the Orland Park location, not only did I discover my desired beer on the shelves, I also realized just how much promotion the Cubs do with the beverage depot. I suppose that makes sense, seeing as not only is Binny's a Chicago-based company, the first location was opened less than a stone's throw away from Wrigley Field, at the corner of Clark and Sheffield, in 1948. With as bad as the Cubs were for most of their existence, a large portion of their customer base was probably fans stopping by for beverages with which to drink away their sorrows while on their way home from yet another embarrassing loss.
Anyway, you didn't come here for snapshots of advertisements. I wasn't distracted for too long before I was able to locate some "Try Not To Suck" in the wild:
Ten bucks for a six pack of craft beer - that's not too crazy, especially when considering some of that money is going towards a pair of charities. That being said, despite the previous shortages and the now healthy stock, I opted to just grab one set, just in case "Try Not To Suck" did, in fact, suck. I don't need a fridge full of bad beer.
Luckily for me, Joe Maddon's brew lived up to it's billing.
"Try Not To Suck" comes in a rather nifty, artsy looking can, making appropriate use of the Cubs colors without stepping on their trademarks; this only a partnership with Maddon, after all, and not with the franchise itself. The background line-art mosaic is made up of subtle baseball imagery, including a fielder's glove, home plate, a baseball, and Joe's familiar hipster glasses. Offset by the silver can, I'd say the whole product is quite appealing aesthetically, but we're talking about a beer here. Looks are not what's truly important.
As Binny's website states, the drink itself is "medium in body, with a refreshingly crisp finish;" this description seems rather accurate, at least to my untrained palate. The concoction is definitely a sipper, as it took me two full episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to down the entire can. Although, as far as potency goes, the beverage is somewhat weak for a craft brewski, at only 4.8% alcohol by volume.
Overall, I'd say it's a decent batch of booze - not particularly notable, but an above average lager that would pair well with a ballpark brat. That seems to be the majority opinion, as well - out of over 600 reviews on Untappd (the Yelp of craft beer) "Try Not To Suck" averages out at 3.5 out of 5 stars. I've seen the flavor described there as "floral" and "grassy" but that's too cultured for me to confirm. All I know is that it tastes like a lager and that Haymarket's latest release does not suck.
Oh yea, Haymarket is the brewery that actually whipped up the suds. I probably should have mentioned them sooner.
Haymarket is a brewery that is based out of the North Side of Chicago and takes it's name from the city's Haymarket Square and the infamous "Haymarket Affair" of 1886. Branded as beers for the working class, it only makes sense that they should take the moniker of a labor movement which led to the establishment of the 8-hour work day. As you can see from the logo above, they've also expanded into Michigan, extending their reach a little further through the Midwest.
That's about all I can gather on Haymarket - I'll have to make a trip downtown and visit the actual pub. Of course I mean the Chicago location: lord knows why I'd ever be in Bridgman, MI. Perhaps "Try Not To Suck" is even less sucky on tap? Has any local reader of Wrigley Roster Jenga ever had the pleasure of visiting Haymarket?
At any rate, being the obsessive Cubs fan and collector of sports ephemera that I am, you know very well that I'll be keeping a (finished off) can of "Try Not To Suck" to display with the rest of my baseball knick-knacks. I suppose it makes the most sense to prop it up next to the other Cubbie-themed beer can in my possession, "Ron Santo 10 Ale," which was generously gifted to me by P-Town Tom of Waiting 'Til Next Year Fame. If you're curious about the Santo Ale, I talk about the drink and the story behind it in detail here; but, I will say that I prefer a kolsch to a lager any day of the week and I was tempted to click my heels when I first tasted "10."
Are there any other craft beers or beverages marketed around Chicago baseball personalities that I should be made aware of? How the heck did Budweiser never slap Harry Caray's mug on a beer can?
Now that I think about it, not so long ago, there was yet another beverage company that got together with a Cubs icon:
Alright, so my now blossoming Cubs can collection includes two beers and a Kris Bryant Red Bull. I guess I have to go all in now and find me some of those RC Cola cans with player pictures on them from the late 70's and a can of Fergie Jenkins' ill-fated energy drink. *Sigh* I'm going to need more shelves...
Anyway, that's the story of my experience with Haymarket and Joe Maddon's "Try Not To Suck" German-style lager, distributed in partnership with Binny's Beverage Depot and Jewel-Osco. All in all, it's a decent beer that lives up to it's billing and contributes funds to admirable causes; plus, it represents an appropriate endorsement deal for a guy who offered "two shots and a beer" to everyone who attended his introductory press conference. Here's hoping that, unlike this limited release, Joe Maddon sticks around Chicago for a few more years yet.
Will I buy it again? Honestly, probably not, seeing as I now already have a can for my trinket collection and the lager itself simply didn't distinguish itself enough from the competition in the crowded and confusing world of craft beer. That said, I'm certainly not disappointed that I have five more of these sitting in my refrigerator right now.
*Pop* *Pssssssshhhhhhhh* Whoops, I mean four more...