Saturday, 24 April 2021

Brooklyn beer and baseball

I've just read Beer School: Bottling Success At the Brooklyn Brewery, a cheap secondhand copy of which I picked up online. It's an unusual book, a cross between a company history and a business manual.

I first drank their flagship Brooklyn Lager, an amber, all-malt brew loosely based on the Vienna-type beers produced in the United States before Prohibition, about twenty years ago. In the early to mid 2000s, I also went on three holidays to New York, each time making at least one trip out to Shea Stadium in Queens for a Mets game, and picked up in a bar at JFK Airport the Brooklyn beer mat that still sits on my desk (since the late fifties, when the Dodgers left for Los Angeles, the borough of Brooklyn has been bereft of a major league baseball team, and by the mid seventies lacked a brewery too. In the summer of 1986, as the Mets batted themselves towards their second World Series championship, Brooklyn Brewery's founders were watching on a TV set - drinking homebrew and sketching out their business plan - in the backyard of the apartment building they both then lived in. They are also linked by graphic design: the brewery's swirling logo was based on the Dodgers' iconic "B", while the Mets' combines their colours with those of the city's other lost National League baseball team, uptown Manhattan's New York Giants).

Being based at first in a still edgy section of a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn means that amongst the entrepreneurial advice are stories of hairy experiences in those early years: threatening calls from besuited Italian guys in limos befitting "business agents" of Mob-fronted construction union locals; burglars dropping through the skylight to steal crates of beer later retrieved from a neighbourhood convenience store; and armed robbers holding guns to the heads of warehouse workers before emptying the safe.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

A Different League

Amid the numerous news reports yesterday about a proposed breakaway European Super League, a money and power grab by the continent's richest clubs redolent of arrogance, greed and contempt for fans and the communities around them, it was good to watch a football story that represents the polar opposite of all that.

Derry City, whose ground stands at the edge of the Catholic Bogside, suspended play in 1972 as the Troubles exploded around it and other teams refused to travel there for away matches. It was resurrected by its fans in 1985, joining the League of Ireland, based in the Republic, whose border abuts the city, rather than the (Northern) Irish Football Association and recruiting local hero Felix Healy as well as international players such as Brazilian Nelson Da Silva, black South African Owen Da Gama and Serbian striker Alexsandar Krstic.

For some reason, the documentary, Different League, eschews surnames, so as well as Felix we get to meet former manager Jim (McLaughlin) and veteran Derry left-wing journalist and civil rights campaigner Eamonn (McCann). There are also cameo appearances for Sven (Göran Eriksson), manager of Benfica when Derry played their first European Cup match against the Portuguese club in 1989, and former IRA commander in the city Martin (McGuinness) who made sure that the match went ahead by tying a rope to a suspected bomb and dropping it down a manhole in the adjoining cemetery, on whose cross-planted slopes impecunious fans had gathered for a free, if somewhat obscured, view of the game.