The arrival of spring means the return of flowers, insects, lawn-mowing, lake activities and baseball. For some Michigan breweries and their owners, the Great American Pastime holds a particularly special place in their hearts – so much so that the game finds its way into several aspects of their business.
Here are a few examples of breweries celebrating baseball. Don’t worry, there’s no pitch clock here – you can take your time reading.
Paw Paw Brewing Co.’s Mr. Sunday
Baseball has a long history of iconic nicknames – “The Sultan of Swat”, “The Big Hurt” and “The Splendid Splinter,” among others.
In 1959, Charlie Maxwell of the Detroit Tigers earned some of his own - “Sunday Charlie,” “Sabbath Smasher” or “Sunday Punch” - for his penchant of hitting home runs on Sundays. Maxwell hit 12 of his 31 home runs that season on Sundays. On his career, the two-time All-Star Maxwell hit 40 of his 148 dingers, or 27%, on Sundays.
Maxwell was born and raised in Paw Paw, a small town in southwest Michigan. He played college baseball at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo before starting his 15-year career in the MLB with the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
In 2011, Paw Paw Brewing Co. opened its doors. For the last several years, the brewery, which is owned by Ryan Sylvester - who also played wide receiver at WMU from 1992-95 - releases its seasonal offering, “Mr. Sunday,” in honor of the 95-year-old Maxwell. He has also participated in special release events in past years.
The hopped-up amber ale weighs in at 5% ABV and is slated to be released in April.
Have a catch in Grand Rapids?
Max Trierweiler and Chris Andrus showed their love of baseball in nearly every aspect of their brewery, Mitten Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The co-owners of this brewery launched their passion project in an old firehouse on the city’s west side in October of 2012. The beer names reference everything from famous players to nicknames to slogans from the Detroit Tigers - both past and present - including “Country Strong,” a common phrase used by longtime Tiger announcer Rod Allen when describing abnormally strong hitters.
The brewery walls are filled with items from Tiger history, as well as seats from the now-demolished Tiger Stadium at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. In 2016, several members of the Detroit Tigers visited the brewery.
Mitten’s Peanuts and Cracker Jack Porter is a longtime flagship beer and is released to coincide with Opening Day each spring.
The brewery’s foundation started a wiffle ball tournament to benefit local mental health organizations. It also installed a vintage scoreboard from a famous local ballpark on the exterior of the brewery.
One of the state’s most popular seasonal beers, Bell’s Oberon, is released each March to coincide with the start of baseball season. The packaging for the wheat ale, often served with orange slices, screams warmth with its memorable orange and blue label featuring a sun.
Bell’s founder Larry Bell, who retired from the brewery at the end of 2021, is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. The beer has been a popular seller around Wrigleyville for decades and helped build the brand into a massive hit for the brewery. Larry Bell still attends several home games each season.
His long-standing ties to the team have afforded him the thrill of singing, “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Wrigley Field in 2016 and throwing out the first pitch there in 2011, among other baseball memories.
Oberon has an ABV of 5.8% and is brewed with wheat malt, hops, water and Bell’s signature house ale yeast. Bell’s says it has “bright orange color and is citrusy, smooth and refreshing.”
In addition to selling at several MLB stadiums during the season, it is also served at several MLB spring training facilities. While it’s a seasonal release in Michigan – and an unofficial holiday around the state – the beer is served year-round in warmer markets, including Arizona and Florida.
Other fun fact
Several ballparks across the state serve Michigan beer and also partner with local breweries, including:
- Lansing Brewing Co.’s Rally Cap is the official beer of the Lansing Lugnuts. The High-A minor league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics describes the beer, created it 2022, as “an American Pale Wheat Ale with an ABV that pays homage to Lansing – sitting at 5.17%. When luck and skill are not enough, reach for a Rally Cap to root on your Lugnuts!”
While it’s not in Michigan, it’s worth highlighting the team at Broken Bat Brewing Co. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Obviously, the business name shouts “baseball” from the bleachers, but owner Tim Pauly goes a couple extra innings further in combining his love of baseball and beer.
There are beer names such as “Oh’Fer,” “Ball & Glove” and “Batter’s Rye,” but where Pauly really stretches it out is the on-site wiffleball field, which hosts a popular league night and can be rented out by the hour by customers of the brewery.
Broken Bat Brewing Co. will celebrate its sixth anniversary on April 8, 2023.
Featured photographs courtesy of: Bell's Brewery, Inc., Paw Paw Brewing Company, Mitten Brewing Company and
About the author:
John Liberty is an account manager for Millcraft Beverage Solutions. He also co-founded West Michigan Beer Tours in 2013 and closely followed the beer industry as a newspaper reporter/blogger starting in 2007.
Interested in talking with a Millcraft Beverage Solutions specialist? Just ask.