Peter King has been been covering the National Football League since 1984 and he's loved beer almost every step of the way.
He got his start in journalism at the Associated Press in 1980 right before moving onto the Cincinnati Inquirer the same year. He worked in newspapers for nine years before being scooped up by Sports Illustrated in 1990. His column “Monday Morning QB” is a study in prolificacy – he opines on the previous day in the NFL, as well as various thoughts on whatever seems to be intriguing him at the time: a major weather event, charitable contributions by an athlete, baseball, or current events.
Throughout his travels around the country to cover the NFL, his relationship with beer has evolved. With more than 5,000 breweries in America, it hard not to throw a football in any direction and have that tight spiral land in some taproom. King and I met on the day of the season opener between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. We met, at King’s request, for “precisely two beers” at the Cambridge Brewing Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right outside of Boston.
We talked about the changing landscape in media, our shared love for Allagash White, the best NFL beer city, and doing too many shots with an NFL legend.
[Note: This interview has been edited for space and clarity.]
It would take an act of congress to get Aaron Rodgers to have dinner with me during the season.”
How’d you get into the football beat?
I was 26 years old. We had a baby at the time and it really was a hard decision, but I figured that I’d be around more. On the football beat, if you cover the team and live in that town, you’re gonna be home most of the time. You’re going to sleep in your bed. You’re not going to be away very much.
Right. As opposed to baseball where you travel so much.
And I love football. There are so many players and so many great stories. My first year covering the Bengals, I lived in a dorm at Wilmington College and I watched practice every day with Paul Brown. They had two a days and he’d be there in his Panama hat shielding himself from the sun. I would just use him like I was living in a library and I was checking out all the books.
That’s not happening anymore.
I really don’t envy people getting into it now. There’s ten times as many people covering the teams now. The comparison I use is that I went to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2000 and there were about 15 to 20 media people; In 2017, the NFL credentialed 1,243 media members. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, it’s just different.
It’s a different set of challenges for everyone.
Because there are so many people covering the league now, the NFL manages the contact with the players and coaches so much more. At one point in the 90’s, Sports Illustrated would send me to Green Bay to cover the Packers and every Friday night, I’d have dinner with [Brett] Favre. It would take an act of congress to get Aaron Rodgers to have dinner with me during the season.
The values to seem change, too. People like headlines. Short videos, etc.
Malcolm Jenkins is a really thoughtful safety for the Eagles and has done a lot to advance the anthem protests to the next level. We got him and Anquan Boldin to sit down I wanted them to sit down and look in the camera and explain why they’re doing this [protesting]. But it needed to be short even though the message was so important.
It’s funny. Malcolm Jenkins does ride alongs with cops. He’s not anti-cop.
So, let me ask you this: If Colin Kaepernick were to break the strict NFL uniform policy and wear a yellow ribbon on his jersey in support of the troops, would he have a job as a quarterback in the NFL?
Of course he would. Are you kidding me? They’d be lining up to sign him. It’s a terrible look for the NFL. It’s ridiculous he’s not on a team and the teams should be ashamed of themselves. But obviously it’s not changing anyone’s mind.
Let’s talk about something more positive. Beer. How did Beernerdness come to be a part of the Monday Morning QB column?
I added beer to the column because I love beer and I drink a lot of it, and so do a lot of other people. Maybe this would be a fun thing to write about, so I tried to write about a new beer or an aspect of beer. It’s absolutely amazing to be traversing the United States and be somewhere like the Carolina Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina and to have a brewery [R.J. Rockers Brewing Co.] in the heart of downtown. They have a beer there called Son of a Peach that is an American treasure.
So when I travel around the country, I always try to at least have one local beer. It’s tremendous fun. You get to try some weird beer that you don’t like, but you also get to have some beer that makes you say, “Wow, that’s awesome.”
It’s a night that even though I don’t remember much of it, I will never forget.”
What styles of beer do you gravitate toward?
I’m mostly into wheat beers, hefeweizen. I love Allagash White. About 12 years ago, I mentioned Allagash White in a column. I was there at the brewery up in Portland [Maine] and I had it and said, “This is absolutely unbelievable.” Right down to swirling the glass to get all the yeast.
What’s the best beer city in the NFL?
Can Portland, Oregon get a team? It’s unbelievable up there. But I would say San Francisco has some great beer. There’s a beer up there I love called HenHouse Saison [by HenHouse Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA]. It’s as good a saison as I’ve ever had. There’s a brewery in Seattle [Georgetown Brewing] and they make a beer called Manny’s Pale Ale that is just the vanilla ice cream of pale ales. It’s perfect. Green Bay has two really good local breweries. Hinterland Brewery in Green Bay has a Door County Cherry Wheat that’s really tasty and it’s made with tart cherries only from upstate Wisconsin. Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco are the three I would probably say.
Having a beer with an NFL guy. Past, present, would it be?
I would want to have a beer with Vince Lombardi at the Union Hotel in Green Bay. He used to go to the Union Hotel. It’s a very old place and people tell me it looks just the same as it did in the 60’s when all the coaches and a lot of the players used to go in there. I don’t know what he’d have. Maybe he’d drink his gin and tonic, but I’d have a Wisconsin beer and I’d love to pound a few with him.
Even though he was kind of a weird guy, Kenny Stabler was a party guy. I’m sure he was a Miller Lite guy or something, but I would’ve loved to have a few beers with Kenny Stabler. There are so many colorful guys in the NFL that I wish I’d have gotten to know.
Any great stories of people you have had beers with?
Maybe my most entertaining stories of people I’ve had drinks with was with Brett Favre at the Pro Bowl before he went on the wagon.
Friday night before the game, I don’t know how, I don’t know why because I am not a shot guy, but he saw me out there in Hawaii and said, “Hey Peter, you ought to come out with us tonight. We’re going to have dinner at this fish place. Why don’t you come along?” So I went and they’re lining up black velvet jaggermeister and I lost count, but I probably had ten shots.
But what I’ll never forget about that night is I went to the front desk at the restaurant and told them I needed a cab. They called me a cab and I got into the cab I said, “Hilton Hawaiian Village” and the guy looked at me and he goes, “You’re at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.”
It’s a night that even though I don’t remember much of it, I will never forget.