“I’ve been home-brewing for about four years,” he said. “I’ve kind of wanted to brew on a larger scale. My brother (Phil) and I are opening a brewery in Ashland, Va., this winter. We signed a lease a few weeks ago on a place and ordered our equipment.”The "Philadelphia" brewery is Sly Fox, which isn't distributing to Maryland bars or shelves of late. More information here.
Ray, 30, broached the subject last week not because he wanted a plug for his Center of the Universe Brewing Co., but for charitable reasons.
While pitching for the Seattle Mariners last season, Ray helped create an India pale ale beer with Seattle-based Fremont Brewing Co. to benefit Operation Homefront, a charity that offers emergency financial and other assistance to the families of U.S. service members and to wounded veterans.
“Through some connections with the stadium (Safeco Field), I was able to get a hold of Matt Lincecum of Fremont Brewing. We pushed the idea of doing a charity beer with all the proceeds going to the charity, and he agreed to it.”
Ray checked with a friend in the Army.
“Operation Homefront is what he suggested,” he said. “We also came up with the idea of using unused Louisville Slugger (maple) bats. We age the beer on the bats after it ferments for about a week. Then we dry the bats out and auction them off. We ended up doing 30 barrels.”
The beer, Homefront IPA, made its debut in Safeco Field last year and raised over $10,000 for the charity, Ray said.
After Ray signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians in January, he hoped to connect with an independent brewery in Cleveland or Columbus to continue his hands-on charity work this season. It didn’t work out.
“I reached out to a couple of breweries in Cleveland and Columbus,” Ray said. “But it’s difficult to do a one-off batch because they have their schedules out months and months in advance.”
This is not to say Homefront IPA was a one-and-done affair.
“We had five other breweries around the country sign up for it this year,” Ray said. “So we’re doing over 11 times more than last year. One brewery — Saint Arnold in Houston — is doing 240 barrels. They’re hoping to raise about $100,000. So it’s going to be a pretty big donation.” The beer will be sold in the six markets where the participating breweries are located: Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa, Fla.
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