Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Jared Veldheer proved that professional athletes can still make time for beer drinking (and brewing); we just didn’t know there were so many pro athletes coming home after practice to check the status of their fermenting brews. D.C. United’s goalkeeper, Andrew Dykstra, is one of them. He took over the starting keeper position when Bill Hamid was injured this January, and though he’s now the only thing between an opposing forward and the net, he still finds time for his favorite hobby. We talked with him about what he brews and how it fits into his schedule:
When did you get into beer and homebrewing?
It goes back to college. My roommate was a chemistry major and out of the blue decided he wanted to make beer. I thought it was really cool and I bragged for months about how we had homemade beer in the fridge. Time passed and I settled down with my wife and one winter she bought me a one-gallon brew kit. We’re in a small apartment in Arlington, so to do one gallons is totally appropriate. My first batch was a stout but it wasn’t very good. When I was trying to rack it, I oxygenated the wort and it was horrible when I bottled it. But I was determined. If I get it wrong, I’m the kind of person who wants to make it right. I’ve been brewing for at least the past two years. I think I’ve done probably over 80 batches and probably at least 60 different styles.
Which styles do you prefer brewing?
When I first started, I was a huge fan of Belgians, specifically triples and dubbles and then I moved into saisons. I did some exploring to see what else I could get away with; my favorite right now is to do a wheat style but use an American yeast and then either spice it or make a fruit beer. One of my best beers, according to all my buddies who try it, is a raspberry American wheat and a similar blackberry American wheat.
How does traveling for games affect your brewing schedule?
The trickiest part is the preseason. We typically go on the road for two straight weeks, then we’re home for another few days and on the road again. It’s great that two weeks is the time [it takes] to ferment a standard beer, so I’ll let a batch ferment while I’m gone and bottle in between. I map out when we’re on the road during the season and home for stretches.
How do you balance drinking beer and being a professional athlete?
It’s kind of nice that I do one-gallon batches because you get between eight and 10 beers. I’m not just going to crush them in one afternoon because they took me so long to make. So my routine is to get back from training and if I have some downtime, I’ll kick my feet up and have one. When I was a little bit younger, maybe a few years ago, I was like ‘It’s not bad to have a beer per night.’ Especially the night before a game, I wanted to have a beer because I wanted to relax a bit mentally. Now, typically the night before a game, I’m not drinking. I know in “[The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” Charlie Papazian said that because you’re bottle conditioning homebrews, you’re going to have B vitamins in there that you won’t have with filtered commercial beer, so I was like “That’s neat. If anyone bothers me [about drinking beer], I’m going to use this excuse.”
Do your teammates drink beer with you?
Mostly I share my hobby with my wife; I definitely got her into it, and my brother is getting into it. I’ve tried to get guys on board in the locker room with it, but it’s tough. Especially with the foreign players, they’re like “No, you can’t have alcohol because you’re an athlete.” I’m like “Guys, we’re not taking vodka shots, this is beer. Relax.”
What beers are currently in your fridge?
I brewed a French Toast Stout; it’s eerily similar to Hardywood Gingerbread Stout. I know Hardywood uses honey and ginger in theirs, but I used vanilla and a little bit of lactose and maple syrup. When I first tried it, it didn’t condition that well, so I put it somewhere warmer in my apartment for two months and when I tried it again after getting back from the first preseason, I was pretty impressed and super excited. Then I just bottled one that I’m calling a Buckleberry. It’s like a blueberry buckle dessert with cinnamon.
Any plans to collaborate with actual breweries?
I’m very interested in doing that. If someone’s gonna buy my homebrew beer for $300 for charity like they did at our recent raffle, imagine what could happen if I scaled up my recipes. It’s kind of in my plans, but I don’t know how to approach those guys.
How’s this coming season looking for you and the team?
The regular starter just went down with knee surgery, so I’m going to be the guy for a while. I’ve played long enough to where it’s fairly routine, but it’s still really cool that this will be a good year with everyone behind me.
Watch Dykstra brew in this video courtesy of D.C. United: