Maddon said Tuesday he considered developing a beer to benefit his charitable foundation, Respect 90, for at least a couple of years before cans of Try Not to Suck — an easy-drinking helles lager — finally debuted on store shelves this month.
Joe Maddon, speaking at the launch of his beer Try Not to Suck at Haymarket Pub & Brewery in Chicago on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, said the project was a natural fit to add to his charity work. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)
He found the opportunity by teaming up with Chicago nonprofit Rags of Honor 1, which serves homeless veterans and is planning a brewery, RnR Brewing, that will be staffed by vets.
Rags of Honor 1 founder Mark Doyle arranged to have the beer made by Haymarket Beer Co. in Bridgman, Mich. — hence Maddon, Doyle and a handful of veterans promoting the beer Tuesday at the West Loop brewpub where Haymarket launched in 2010.
Maddon said he expects Try Not to Suck to be available in Chicago through the baseball season and likely beyond, as part of a growing portfolio of products benefiting Respect 90.
“With the way the microbreweries are these days and how popular different brews are today, I thought it would be a natural fit,” he said. “And from the beer drinker and fan’s perspective, everyone likes new and different beers to try out.”
Sales of Try Not to Suck benefit both Respect 90 and Rags of Honor 1. But the beer is tied tightly to Maddon, even touted on the can as “Joe Maddon’s Try Not to Suck.”
Maddon’s contract expires at the end of the season, but he said regardless of whether he’s back in the Cubs’ dugout next season, he wants the beer on taps and shelves in Chicago.
Try Not to Suck, released earlier this month, is a true-to-style helles lager with a soft body rife with grain character, light sweetness and mild bitterness in the finish. It’s an easy-drinking backyard barbecue beer. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)
Joe Maddon, center, talks to Nate Reeves, right, Haymarket and RnR’s head brewer and an Army vet, and Sterling Johnson, left, assistant brewer and a Navy vet. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)
Try Not to Suck is contract brewed at Haymarket’s Bridgman, Mich., facility. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
“Take this the right way — it doesn’t matter,” Maddon said. “It’s about doing the right things for people. It should not be attached to where I’m at, doing what I do. If I continually put out the right message — I think we’ve done some really good work in the past — then the cache will carry for a bit. Yes, I want to continue to do this, and yes I want to continue to do this here.”
(He also added that he’d like to be back with the Cubs next season.)
Maddon said he’d even like to expand his beer brand with Rags of Honor 1 and Haymarket, including an India pale ale and “some kind of summer brew.”
Though largely known as a wine guy — and, yes, Maddon is planning a wine brand that will benefit his charity — Maddon said he is a longtime beer fan, especially IPAs.
“I used to be a big fan, but I had to cut back,” he said. “Otherwise I’d weigh 500 pounds.”
Lately when he’s wanted a beer?
“Corona Light with a lime in it,” he said.
Now Maddon has an easy drinking beer of his own — which, incidentally, he said he’d also like to try with a lime. Fortunately, it does not suck.
Try Not to Suck is true to its German style: a soft body rife with grain character, kissed with light sweetness and finished with mild hop bitterness. It’s an easy-drinking backyard barbecue beer.
The recipe was developed by Haymarket with input from RnR’s head brewer, Nate Reeves, who did two tours in Afghanistan.
When the beer was first packaged in late March, a handful of veterans were brought to Haymarket’s production brewery for the effort, including hand labeling cans.
The beer debuted at Binny’s Beverage Depot and Jewel-Osco, and will appear at other locations in the coming weeks. The second batch of Try Not to Suck is being packaged this week.
The name, unsurprisingly, came from Maddon, who said he derived the go-to slogan during a dugout chat with his former catcher David Ross, while trying to figure out a concise way to articulate how to be a professional and “not to embarrass yourself on a daily basis.”
“When it came time to name the beer, it was a natural fit,” he said.
Maddon’s biggest applause line of the afternoon, however, had nothing to do with beer. It came toward the end of his appearance, nodding to his team’s sluggish start to the 2019 season.
“The Cubs are going to be fine this year — heads up,” he said.