Introduction: Craft Beer Curling League
Dominion City Brewing Co. is on its way to releasing a new beer in the Ottawa area and the branding has inspired me to build a craft beer league at our club. This beer is a great illustration of the growing relationship between the craft beer community and the curling community. The two groups of people are a match made in heaven! Two years ago the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club curling section celebrated its 50th year of operation, so curling has a long history similar to brewing in this town. Beer and curling have always gone together and some of the major breweries like Molson’s and Labatt’s have capitalized on this. It’s taken awhile, but the curling community is starting to become aware of craft beer culture, and for me it’s great to see beer that I love appearing in the tap line. Part of my self-appointed role at the club has been to act as a craft beer ambassador – a fun and well respected position.
With my interest in curling and its connection to brewing Barley Nectar – I thought why not merge the two areas of interest into a common goal? One of the great things I learned hanging out with the members of the Niagara Home Brew Society, was how cool it was to share a common interest in craft beer. I loved this aspect of the Facebook group. However I’ve noticed that there isn’t much chatter during the month leading up to the next meeting. Unfortunately this curling season, a lot of the meetings seemed to fall on the days I had already committed to curl.
An Idea Emerged…
Why not create a scenario where people have a reason to get together (like a curling game schedule), and also share a common interest in beer? In this specific case the league would occupy an unused late draw on Wednesday evening at the St. Catharines Golf & Country Club. Why Wednesday? Well coincidentally it’s a dead spot at the club, and secondly, it dovetails with the Home Brew Wednesday phenomenon on YouTube. The following steps will provide a simple starting point for you to plug in to the club and enjoy that cold golden Barley Nectar.
Step 1: Visualize The Game
A simple yet effective way to learn a sport quickly is to watch the game and imagine yourself playing. See yourself making the shots, feel the temperature of the ice, and listen to the sounds of rocks hitting and skips yelling. YouTube is a great resource to find endless examples like this: the two minute guide to curling.
Step 2: Register Your Team!
There are many ways that a group can go out for a curling excursion. My main focus with this blog post is to build a Craft Beer Curling League at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club. However, the same information can be used to run a team building exercise for your business. The St. Catharines Golf and Country Club can also host one-off events for those interested in trying curling for the first time. If you are interested in signing up for a curling the normal procedure is to attend a pre-season social where teams are formed and league signups take place. Unfortunately, if you are new to the area, or new to the club, this process might be intimidating. Well you are in luck! It’s my goal to make this transition as painless as possible. Our club is looking to grow their membership so they will welcome you. At the end of this blog post I will provide an e-mail contact so you can sign up BEFORE the big social takes place. The league coordinator can assist you in getting on a team and becoming a member of our club.
Step 3: Organize Your Team
Quality Instruction Before You Begin!
In the past new curlers would learn by example during their first game. This can be slightly frustrating as it takes a few sessions before you will develop your “ice legs” out in the rink. Under the guidance of an experienced instructor all your preliminary questions can be answered to get you on the right track. Since I started at the club I have taught many groups from all sorts of businesses at various fitness levels. Experience has led me to streamline this process to get new players up and running as efficiently as possible.
A key activity to keep everyone organized during the instruction phase is to know who you are curling with. With this particular league I thought it would be a cool idea for breweries to sponsor teams on the ice. If you have a beer sponsor in mind ask them to supply some beer merchandise! Out in the rink each sheet will have two teams of four and one instructor. The line up stays the same over the course of the game because each player has a key role in the operation of a curling team. Each team roster has four players: a skip, a vice, a second, and a lead:
The skip is usually the most experienced member of the team, and will often direct the play. If all members of the team are new, choose the person who makes decisions the quickest, because they will be directing the game play for the rest of the team. Skips are part of the “back-end” of a curling team. The skip is also going to be responsible for the most critical shots of the game so choose wisely.
The Vice Skip
The vice skip is a fancy name for the second in command on a curling team. The main purpose of a vice is to provide a target (broom) for the skip to aim at when he or she throws the last two stones of the end. A vice completes the “back-end” structure of a curling team. This player gets to throw a wide variety of shots, and is considered a setup player for the last two stones of the end. The vice should also provide strategical support for the skip and someone to hug if things go south.
The second is a part of the “front-end” structure of a curling team. Seconds often get to throw a variety of take out shots. In a nutshell there are two types shots: takeouts, and draws. Takeouts remove the draws that have been placed in the rings. A second will be sweeping the majority of the stones which is a vital role in helping the shooter make shots.
Some consider the lead to be the pawn of the team. However as the name implies “a lead” sets the tone for the end. The strategy of the end can dramatically change depending on where the lead throws the first two stones. The lead is also an integral part of the sweeping team who must communicate vital information on ice conditions to the vice and the skip.
Step 3: Equip The Team
The beauty about the Craft Beer League is that it is new. What this means is that the majority of players will have no prior experience – so if you feel that you don’t have the skills to compete in a curling match, not to worry! Curlers that join this year need only their enthusiasm and a love of craft beer. At the end of the year you will have learned a new skill set and been introduced to new friends. For all of the benefits the entry cost is reasonable. Brooms and sliders will be provided. During the first few games of league play, instructors will hang around to answer questions and keep the game flowing. Not all leagues have this added value so take advantage of it!
Step 4: The Essentials
Prior to curling in the league a team of instructors will guide you through your first experience out on the ice. Ice is naturally very slippery so one of the pieces of equipment you are responsible for is a clean pair of sneakers. Ice is cold. Like winter tires on your car you want the soles of the shoes to be of a softer rubber. The goal is to have a good grip of the ice surface when you are running from end to end sweeping rocks.
Part of the fun of this beginner’s league is participating in the history of the sport. In order to experience curling at its finest I would recommend dragging out your most horrendous knitted sweater possible. You need to find yourself one of these:
Craft Beer Curling League Field Guide Book
Let’s face it folks this is a craft beer curling league. After the game you are going to need to equip yourself with an essential guidebook on how to remember the beers that you experience. Untappd works, but this guide book is a lot cooler! So I thought I would include one of these as a bonus for signing up to the Craft Beer Curling League. Cheers!
Step 5: The Stick & The Slider
By far the easiest route to throw a curling stone is to skip the slide delivery altogether and use a stick. A stick will allow you to get up and running as quickly as humanly possible in the initial stages of game play. This may not be your final destination but a simple place to begin. Once you have thrown a couple of stones using both rotations you can move on to a slide delivery. If you are somewhat athletic or flexible, it will not take long to master the slide. Be warned however, if you take pride in being a beer drinking couch potato, then it may take years. Just listen to your body and set aside your fear of looking stupid in front of your peers. You will not look pretty when you start, but take comfort in the fact that everyone is in the same boat. By the end of the season you will astound yourself with your progress.
The Slider & Delivery
Once you’ve tried the stick at least once, you can move on to the slide delivery. For a detailed explanation watch master coach Earle Morris teach it on the Curl Canada YouTube Channel. The craft beer curling league that I’m promoting will have instructors guiding you through the beginning phase.
Step 6: A Four End Game
There are a lot of things to learn before you will get into the flow of the game so don’t get discouraged. The whole goal is not to bore you with too many technical details, but rather get you integrated into the social aspect of the game. During the first one hour session, the instructors will guide you through the “how to”, and by the end of it you will actually be curling with your team! The following week it will be clear sailing!
Step 7: Post Game Beverage!
This is often the best part of belonging to a club. On ice, curlers can be intense. Even if you curl once a week and the goal is to have fun, inevitably you may take this sport seriously and want to actually beat the heck out of the competition. It’s a natural progression. After a beating, the lounge is the place where you either celebrate victory or you rest up and lick your wounds. Every game begins and ends with a handshake. It’s tradition. The beauty of curling in a league is that each week you will get to meet and play a new set of people. It’s a win win scenario.
At the moment this is a viable idea in its infancy. As we get into the summer and interest develops, I’m confident this league will become a reality. The biggest step will be getting the beer community out of the pub and into the club. Over the next few blog posts and as we get closer to the Scott Tournament of Hearts in 2017 I will keep updates coming. Hope to see you in October! Cheers!