He's hit more than 100 home runs in the major leagues, and his next game will be his 800th, but the Tampa Bay Rays' infielder Trevor Plouffe also enjoys a nice can of hazy IPA when he can. The life of a baseball player includes plenty of travel, and he's called places as far flung as Fort Myers, New Britian, Rochester, and Los Angeles home. Beer has been with him at every step.
We sat down with him in the clubhouse in Oakland before he made his way to Tampa later in the year and talked about these travels, and the role of beer in his life. As an avid home brewer and can trader, he's an active pursuer of fine suds, just as he has to concentrate on tracking down that white orb on the baseball diamond.
Was it through baseball that you ran into craft beer? What was the first time that you thought, this beer is better than what I’ve had before, and this is worth my time and effort?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint the exact time. Even when I was… I don’t know if I should say when I started [Laughs]
When you were younger.
When I was younger, I was just never for the Bud Lights and the Keystones, I just didn’t like it. I was drinking Banquet Beer, Coors OGs. And then, as I started traveling with baseball in the minor leagues, in 2004, I got shipped to a lot of different cities and I always tried to order whatever was local and on tap. At that time I didn’t even think about it, I don’t know if it was even truly local, it was just the different beer on tap there. It wasn’t Bud Light, it wasn’t Blue Moon.
It started that way, but then I had Magic Hat #9, years ago, that was the first beer, where I said, this is something I really enjoy. Then it went from there. And I know Magic Hat has changed a million times and may not be as desirable any more, but back then it was a big deal to me.
When you come to a city now, though, you work during prime drinking hours. How do you take advantage of traveling to these great beer places, but at the same time you don’t get to travel like other people?
During the season, I try to just focus on baseball. In terms of using my time, I just try to relax and get ready for the game. But that’s the beauty of it, I don’t have to work too hard to get beer any more. With social media, I can make contacts with people in the industry. Being in my position, I’m able to offer certain perks in return, so I’ve reached out to breweries and met people at them, and then if beer comes it comes, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.
Favorite local when you're home?
A little place called Ladyface, owned by women, don’t know if all their employees are women are not, that’s right by my place and is great.
You had a relationship with Surly.
I just wanted to check the facility out, and met a few guys, and brought them into the clubhouse and showed them around and developed good friendships with them.
Have you met Todd Haug when he was at Surly?
I knew Todd a little bit, I went to dinner with him once, and met him a few times at the brewery. He was an intimidating figure. He was just doing his thing, though. His right-hand man, Spencer Anderson, he was the guy I really connected with.
Do you ever worry about calorie content? The big stouts can be 600 calories. Does it not matter because you have to crush the weights anyway?
During the season, I don’t really drink a ton quantity wise. That’s the beauty of craft beer, I think. When I want to drink, I want to drink something good, I want to enjoy it. It’s not like I’m slamming it just to get drunk because I’m at a party. I want to taste this. Because of that, I’m able to limit the weight.
What are your favorite styles? Favorite beers?
Like a lot of people my age, IPAs. Hop-forward beers are my favorites if I have to choose. I also love Mexican Lagers. I will drink the big stouts. Last night I had a Julius from Treehouse, and to me that’s a hop pillow, it’s soft. The thing I get from the Northeastern hazy IPAs that I don’t get from the West Coast breweries that try to do it is that mouthfeel. It’s like the West Coast tries to soften their beer with more yeast, while the Julius doesn’t feel that way, like it’s a hop haze. I don’t know if it’s really different though.
People have been trying to make good light beers, but they can’t get to the right price point.”
You home brew. Do you try to find beers you like and find the recipe and make them? Or do you just try to throw things together and see what happens?
I’ve done both. I’ve done a clone and I’ve done, just kind of what I thought would go well together. I like the one that I just came up with on my own better. Like I tried to make a Todd the Axe Man and it didn’t taste the same. I thought Todd’s was better, obviously. [Laughs] The one I made was no comparison, really. I’ve never tried to brew a stout.
Not as big on the stouts?
I am, but the grain bill is a little bit different, a little bit harder, the mash is a little tougher, takes a little bit longer.
A few baseball players – Corey Knebel, who is a home brewer, Eric Thames and Oliver Drake – brewed a beer that will be available in Milwaukee. If you were to brew a beer with Fieldwork, a brewery we both know and love, is there an adjunct or a type of beer you’d want to make with them?
I have been talking to them about using lupulin power, and they haven’t used it yet, so that would be fun. I need to be a better brewer, though. If I’m at Fieldwork, I’d let them just do it, look over their shoulder and say, yeah that looks good.
What do you think is next in beer?
I don’t know where the IPA train can go, but it does seem like we find new things to do with our beers every few years.
What do you think about sessions? I got two toddlers I have to watch, so sometimes I’m into them.
I thought that was going to be the next big thing, session beers all around. I just haven’t had a hop-forward session beer I love. And, talking to some of my brewer friends, it’s pretty expensive. People correlate alcohol content with price. So if it’s 4% alcohol, they’ll ask, why am I still paying six bucks for this. The margins are tough for them. People love All Day, but they have to mass produce it to keep the price down to make sense.
There’s a big gap between commercial beer and craft beer and there’s this void in between, and people have been trying to make good light beers, but they can’t get to the right price point for the market. There’s a company called House Beer in California, I almost invested in them years ago, and that’s their thing, they’re trying to bridge that gap, they call it House Beer and their labels are very simple, and they are trying to get that price point down. To do that, they’re contract brewing out in Vermont and then sending it around, and it’s tough.