Strange Brews: Jalapeno Helles Lager (Rogue)

Sometimes a player adds something to the game the fans didn’t even know they wanted until they see it.  Eccentricity is a huge part of the history of baseball, from Mark “the Bird” Fydrich’s deep conversations with baseballs to “Manny being Manny” the odd antics of players on and off the field are a point of fascination, and often endearment for fans, especially in a game where so many unspoken rules of propriety exist.  The Mets are no stranger to eccentrics, having seen the likes of orange wristband-ed Tsuyoshi Shinjo frenetically patrolling the outfield, or Bobby Valentine donning a fake moustache to re-enter the clubhouse after being tossed, or the sublime UCL-deficient knuckleballer R.A. Dickey rise from obscurity to dominate Major league baseball while referencing Star Wars and JRR Tolkein at every turn, just to name a few.

But when it comes to players who captured the hearts of Mets fans almost solely by merit of their fascinating personality, nobody holds a candle to Turk Wendell.  Turk pitched largely in middle relief for the Mets during the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  His numbers were certainly acceptable for a middle reliever, striking out as many as eight batters per nine innings in ’99.  However it’s not his solid middle relief pitching he is best remembered for, but his reputation as the most superstitious athlete of all time.  Adorned with a necklace made of teeth from animals he had hunted, Wendell also had a habit of jumping emphatically over the foul lines on his way to and from the dugout to avoid accidentally touching them.  While pitching he would always chew black licorice, and then upon completing an inning he would go back to the clubhouse to brush his teeth.  Wendell also made a habit of spiking the rosin bag into the ground before each batter.  He consistently did all of these things throughout his major league career.  While his pitching made him a successful big-leaguer, his quirky on-field antics and generally friendly demeanor made him a huge hit among fans, reminding us that fans really do want entertainment almost as much as they want success from a major league player.

So in the spirit of the eccentric, today I’m reviewing the Jalapeno Helles Lager from Rogue Brewery.  Stopping by the Rogue Taproom in San Francisco one exceptionally rainy day with some friends, I was drawn to the idea of a beer that would warm me up after a cold and wet walk through the Embarcadero.  The beer had the smell of of freshly diced green peppers, and a clear amber color that one would expect from a lager.  I went into this beer expecting it to be spicy on the tongue and throat with a slightly vinegary flavor, similar to the jalapenos you get on a sandwich.  Much to my surprise the aroma of freshly cut peppers matched the flavor of the beer quite well.  The taste of fresh roasted jalapeno pepper permeated the beer and combined with the sweetness of the malt to yield a flavor that was altogether pleasant.  There was a surprising lack of heat to the drink, with only the faintest detectable spiciness that slowly built over the course of a pint, but never to a level that would be uncomfortable.  The roasted flavor of the pepper combined with the sweetness of the malt blended seamlessly into a beer I found myself completely enthralled by.  Despite not wanting to give up my glass, I reluctantly spared a bit of beer to allow each of my friends to try a sip because they were skeptical at my gushing praise of the flavor, but each agreed upon trying it that while the idea sounded weird, it worked in a way they never would have expected.  The Jalapeno Helles Lager is the perfect example of why you should never be afraid of eccentricity.  What seems odd on the surface may end up winning your heart if you give it a chance.


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