It may be played for fun on beaches and college quads, but for roughly seven million men and women across almost 80 countries, frisbee is a serious – and officially competitive – sport.
That’s how far and wide members of the World Flying Disc Federation can be found, and like so many other athletic endeavors, the old adage of “work hard, play hard” rings true when it comes to this game, where beer holds a special place as a post-match treat or the basis of community.
“One of the things I try to do as captain is take the team out to cool places, like breweries," said Vanessa Cannaday, captain and defensive cutter for Madison, Wisconsin’s NOISE, a fear-inducing acronym that stands for No One Is Safe Ever, and one of the top club teams in this year’s championship play as part of in the mixed (co-ed) club division. “Beer is such a big part of our culture at home, but especially when we’re traveling we’re out on Saturday nights at a beer bar or looking for craft beer.”
All this will be no exception during Ultimate Frisbee’s 2017 National Championships, held this week in Sarasota, Florida. As handlers, cutters, and mids head to the Sunshine State to compete from October 19th to the 22nd, there are certainly many participants who will have beer on their mind when they’re not soaring flicks and backhands to each other on the field.
So I guess I am open to anything after playing, assuming it's a highly rated, local beer.”
For members of Boston’s Dig, a men’s team that will also be competing in Sarasota, IPAs are the beer of choice after a game. Alexander Dagley, who jokes he and teammate Ryan Rzepka are Dig’s “obnoxious elitists” when it comes to beer, noted that highlights from this season have included sharing The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine, two hop bombs long spotted toward the top of beer rating boards.
“I wouldn't typically reach for a stout or porter after playing simply because it's not fall/winter when we are playing and after being in the hot sun all day, IPAs and lagers just seem like the more appropriate choice,” Rzepka said. “So I guess I am open to anything after playing, assuming it's a highly rated, local beer.”
For some postgame refreshment, “highly rated” can also be subjective.
“A common occurrence for me in college was Hamm's Special Light, but since I've moved to the East Coast and this Midwest gem isn't an option, I find that some Yuengling is one of the most refreshing picks,” said Andrew Geisel, a captain with Princeton, New Jersey’s Jughandle co-ed club team.
No matter what the pick, Ultimate players are in a good spot – some of the sport’s most popular cities also doubling as beer destinations. Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston have long supported numerous teams who won’t have any trouble finding some of the best beer in the country. Around Minneapolis, Minnesota, Surly Brewing Co. makes it easy as a regular sponsor of National Championship attendees Drag’N Thrust, Pop, and Sub Zero, among others, and even hosts the Surly Open, an annual Ultimate and disc golf tournament. Surly founder Omar Ansari even met his wife, Rebecca Sheldon Ansari, while playing in the Twin Cities Ultimate League.
“When you think Minnesota ultimate, you think Surly,” Ben Feldman, acting owner and general manager of the Minnesota Wind Chill Ultimate Frisbee franchise, recently noted in announcing a sponsorship by the brewery, which shortly after also saw Ansari buy a majority stake in the team.
Other industry connections can be found with Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing Co., which has sponsored Seattle Sockeye and Seattle Underground teams, as well as Portland, Oregon’s Breakside Brewing, named after a move in which a defender forces a player with possession of the disc to throw in the direction of the defense.
Beer even has its own Ultimate all-star in Bart Watson, Brewers Association economist and a 10-time national/world champion between stints with teams at Stanford University, Team USA and three different club teams.
“There are certainly some parallels with beer in why I love ultimate – it has its own special community that is unique and welcoming,” Watson said. “Not to mention it’s a good way to burn off a few beers from the night before. While my playing has gone down over the last few years, it’s definitely been a special part of my life starting with college, and I wouldn’t be who I am without finding the sport.”
Cannaday, the captain of NOISE, also spent time working in the industry, briefly acting as a brewer at Tyranena Brewing Co. That connection helped her land the brewery’s sponsorship for the team, which will sometimes get celebratory packages of Headless Man Amber Ale or Bitter Woman IPA to share among teammates.
As NOISE preps to take on competition in this year’s National Championship, Cannaday said she and others are looking forward to checking out the state’s beer scene. Immediately from the airport members will visit Cigar City Brewing and fit in stops at Cycle Brewing and Seventh Son Brewing Co.
“One of the coolest things about anywhere we go is we’ll find a local who can tell us where to go for good beer,” she said. “We love to play frisbee to travel and travel and drinking beer go hand-in-hand.”
Thanks to Devon Hollahan for the header image.