Beer & baseball at the center of the universe
September/October 2014
Chris Ray // Sean Harp for DRAFT

Chris Ray // Sean Harp for DRAFT

After winning a World Series, Major League pitcher Chris Ray traded his baseball glove for a brew kettle, founding Virginia’s Center of the Universe Brewing with his brother, Phil. He shares his story of brewing in the Majors.

You were called up to the Orioles in 2005; were you homebrewing then?
I started in 2007 with a friend. The first beer we brewed was supposed to be a pumpkin beer, but we added too much ginger; it was too spicy, but palatable enough that I didn’t get discouraged. I tried it again and got hooked. I fell in love with brewing.

Were your teammates into it?
I would bring my beers into the clubhouse fridge, and put a sign up telling them what kind of beer it was. When we’d go out, they’d ask me what they should order. I was their beer liaison.

After winning the 2010 World Series with the Giants, you hit the homebrewing jackpot with a trade to Seattle.
It was really fun when I got to Seattle; the reaction to my beer was great, and the guys loved drinking it. We also had a kegerator in the clubhouse with Deschutes [Mirror Pond] pale ale. But I was most amazed by the coolers
stocked with craft beer in gas stations.

What were your go-to beers back then?
I always liked Bells Two Hearted Ale. Cigar City Jai Alai is one of my favorite IPAs. But I mainly tried to stick to the local stuff.

Which city does beer and baseball best?
Seattle. There’s a big bar right behind the bullpen and it’s all craft beer. Then you have Pyramid kitty-corner to the stadium. Pike is right downtown. There are just a lot of places to go for craft beer.

In 2011, you teamed up with Fremont Brewing to create Homefront IPA, a beer aged on baseball bats that supports the Operation Homefront charity. How did that come about?
I talked to our press liaison in Seattle about doing a beer to help military families. He introduced me to the Mariners announcer, who put me in touch with Fremont. I met [owner] Matt Lincecum, brought him some homebrew, and he could tell I was passionate. We collaborated on the recipe, and he invited me to come out to brew.

What was it like to release the beer?
The team allowed us to debut Homefront at Safeco Field, and they donated 200 tickets to military families. I pitched that night, and it happened to be the last game I’d pitch in the Majors [after suffering a shoulder injury]. It was kind of fate.

Which COTU beer best represents you as a pro brewer?
I would say Ray Ray’s Pale Ale. I think it’s important to show what my previous profession was [on the can art] without branding our brewery in a baseball manner. My brother, Phil, shares the right side of the can, demonstrating where he came from [mechanical engineering]. Now, we combine our powers to produce great-tasting and consistent beers.

Published September/October 2014