This past weekend, the No Label Brewery hosted their 2nd annual Field Day, and a thirsty horde showed up to engage in battle on the first day of the rest of our summer. Only the night before, I had been at Great Taste of the Heights, a festival celebrating the neighborhood’s many fine restaurants, and enjoyed a gloriously cool evening. The storms of a week prior had ushered in a cool front that held the heat in check, but Sunday the sun’s rays came unfettered.
The Sierra Cadre signed up well in advance with the best of intentions, but by game day, due to poor planning that yours truly cannot shirk, several of our team members had never met and T-shirts were never made that would have explained our team name. We apprehensively eyed our competition as the field of about 25 teams was announced and arranged into 5 groups, and the defending champions roundly heckled. The physique of many entrants looked better suited to jugs of war than tugs, but the beauty of No Label’s Field Day activities was that teams were well matched regardless.
Games included the likes of a relay “race” in which competitors had to walk a pint of beer to a teammate and back – most beer still in the glass at the end would win. There was also balloon-popping involved at the turn; the half pint lost in the exchange made it easy not to spill while walking, but earned us a solid last place. We strategized perhaps too loudly on the next event, so while the leaders from the pint walk were knocked out first as planned, we were next. Then the overconfident Y-chromosomes on our team experimented with various hammer-throw and Magnus-ver-Magnusson-style techniques in tossing our half-barrel kegs with limited success, while our svelte XX teammate outstripped us all with her sixth-barrel heave. Heading into lunch, things were looking grim for the Sierra Cadre, but as the taps opened up, the day was looking bright.
Though No Label’s Jalapeño Ale has been around for awhile, I had not yet tracked it down, so I was glad to see it on tap Sunday. The craft beer community’s predilection for experimentation is well documented, and not every beer is for every drinker. But if one can appreciate every beer for what it’s trying to do, one can dislike a beer without condemning it as a bad one. I happen to be a fan of chili beers, which are often done as stouts or porters, but I thought the Jalapeño Ale was well executed and the pepper unmistakable. As a warm, top-fermented ale, I think this yeast-expressive style was the right choice for jalapeños, rather than a cool, bottom-fermented grain-focused lager style, though I got more of the vegetal side of the pepper than the fruit, along with a very mild tinge of spice that became more pronounced as the brew warmed and my glass emptied. All 4 beers on tap were ales actually, including No Label’s Ridgeback Amber and Pale Horse Pale, though it was their El Hefe that I was not alone in going back to. I don’t normally care much for Hefeweizens, but the low IBU wheat beer was incredibly refreshing for a hot day, not leaving me with a dry mouth after physical exertion like the others did.
After lunch, a quirk of the way our groups had rotated, the last two events for the Sierra Cadre were also the most physical. A relay of bear crawls and crab walks and wheelbarrows and the like yielded a first place finish for us, and, while early leaders, we finished second in the bat spin relay, due mostly to my own body’s inability to quickly regain its equilibrium, nearly sending me into the parking lot for the most inefficient there-and-back path imaginable. Our late surge was not enough to float us to the top of our heat however, and the winners of each group met for one last event. This being a craft brewery in Texas, there was really only one way to settle on a Field Day Champion: a mechanical bull. The Racks & Sacks team was ultimately crowned with the laurel, but every team came out a winner, and most hung around to try their hand at the bull and finish off their last couple of beer tokens.
It’s a great time to be a beer enthusiast in Houston, not just for the incredible offerings from our local breweries, but also for the spirit of friendly competition they universally engender. I look forward to assembling the team next year – with perhaps a bit more forethought – and regaining our honor on the field of battle.