When goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt snuffed out the Chicago Fire in penalties during FC Cincinnati’s U.S. Open Cup run, the Nippert Stadium crowd elevated him to instant legend status. Strangely enough, a member of the Cincinnati craft beer community also noticed, and now they’re working together.
Jason Brewer, the General Manager of Listermann Brewing Company, was at Nippert for that momentous match. He wanted to collaborate with someone from FCC, and after watching Hildebrandt’s performance against the Fire, his decision was easy.
“Being a goalkeeper all my life, I’ve always had an inclination for goalkeepers,” Brewer said. “And then I was at the Chicago Fire game, and I said, ‘We should make it be Mitch.’ We begged him incessantly. He has a good demeanor, and it was a great fit for us.”
The result is a series of beers Hildebrandt will be making with Listermann. The first is Thank You, a New England-style India Pale Ale, to be released Nov. 17 at Listermann. Hildebrandt will donate his portion of the sales to several charities or organizations. Thank You’s proceeds will go to Tee It Up for the Troops, which helps wounded veterans deal with combat injury through golf.
When Brewer contacted Hildebrandt, Hildebrandt saw it as an opportunity to give back.
“I’m very privileged to be in the giving position that I am, whether it be as a USL player or a goalkeeper for the city,” Hildebrandt said. “That’s something that I think should be used for something good.”
Hildebrandt worked with Listermann Head Brewer Jared Lewinski to put together Thank You, which features Galaxy and Simcoe hops. Brewer describes the beer as having flavors of passion fruit, peach, mango, apricot and slight hints of pine and berries. Lewinski provided the base, but Hildebrandt had free rein of everything else and even had a hand in the can design.
“What it looks like and what it tastes like, that was all Mitch,” Brewer said. “You could see he was learning as we went along. We just sat down with a bunch of IPAs and figured out what he liked and what he didn’t like.”
Said Hildebrandt, “It was actually a lot more scientific than I thought it was. It was unique to see the process from start to finish.”
Hildebrandt didn’t become a beer drinker until his wife Amber, now an assistant volleyball coach at Xavier, latched on to IPAs while an assistant at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C. Working with Listermann has turned Hildebrandt into an NE IPA fan, though he doesn’t have a single favorite beer. “Definitely more hoppy is what I prefer,” he said.
Thank You starts the series off. How long they work together is up to Hildebrandt. “As long as he wants to keep making beer, we’ll make beer,” Brewer said.
The second, which Hildebrandt said will come out around Christmas, will be a coffee beer featuring Cincinnati-based Resurgam Coffee. It’s in honor of Hildebrandt’s father, who passed away from cancer.
“That one’s going to be very, very special for me,” Hildebrandt said. “He was a big coffee drinker, and I thought that was a good way to honor him.”
Even Hildebrandt doesn’t know how Thank You will taste. It was just canned on Friday, and it has to sit a week because of “can shock.”
“We believe — there’s really no proof behind it besides tastebuds — the beer just needs to settle down,” Brewer said. “Once the week passes, it’s OK.”
The Thank You release begins at 5 p.m. Friday at Listermann. Cans will be available in four-packs at $12.99 each with a limit of one case per person. Brewer said there will also be games to play for FCC supporters groups and the general public.
Hildebrandt certainly is enjoying his experience with Listermann. So is this a new career path after soccer?
“I’m learning so much and it’s starting to become super-interesting, so it might be,” he said jokingly. “But my passion is still soccer. I want to play soccer as long as possible.”
Whether Hildebrandt will return to FCC in 2018 is still to be determined. The club’s playoff exit against Tampa Bay was just three weeks ago, and with Coach Alan Koch fresh off his recruiting trip, contract negotiations have yet to get off the ground.
“We’re still trying to get over what’s happened,” Hildebrandt said of the playoff loss. “The lines of communication will be there.”
After the season ended, Hildebrandt took a week off to decompress. Now he’s back to work, lifting three to four times a week and doing on-pitch training four to five times a week.
When the opportunity came up to team with Listermann Brewery to create a signature beer I couldn’t help but jump at the opportunity. We developed the idea to instead create something much more and have more of an impact. As the team at Listermanns and I brain stormed what we wanted to do we came up with a concept. The first in a series of beers is this one, The Thank You NE IPA. My portion of the proceeds from this beer will go to Tee it Up for the Troops. Among helping active service people through numerous projects, this organization helps wounded veterans cope with combat injury through the activity of golf. Our military men and women are an amazing people and one in which I don’t think get the help or recognition they truly deserve. With that being said, from Myself and everyone at Listermann Brewing Company we say Thank You!