The brandishing of a red card, when it happens, is one of the most dramatic turn of events in any soccer match. It can feel like sweet justice or bring about a churn of unwelcome emotions, depending on who you’re rooting for.
One community-minded Seattle Sounders FC supporters group, however, found inspiration in the dreaded red card, though, and teamed with a soccer-loving local brewing company to create a new beer – a red one – for the 2016 season.
Civ’s Straight Red continues the relationship that Big Al Brewing has developed with Gorilla FC over the last few years. “We liked Straight Red because there are few game changers like a Straight Red on the field,” said Kevin Zelko, a Gorilla FC founder who also works as a Big Al sales rep. “Capturing that in a beer with its loud malt character felt natural.”
The relationship between Gorilla FC and Big Al Brewing goes back a few years. According to Alejandro Brown, who owns the Seattle-based beer company that bears his nickname, soccer is one of his primary passions, and he looks for any opportunity to merge beer and soccer.
While Gorilla FC isn’t the first supporters group he’s teamed with – he created a beer for Emerald City Supporters in 2011 – he’s been on-board with Gorilla FC since 2013, creating one-of-a-kind beers that carry two hallmarks of the supporters group. The beers they’ve created (among them, a White IPA and a Session IPA) have incorporated Civ, the gorilla that serves as the group’s mascot, and a portion of the sales are earmarked for the charities that the group partners with.
“We use soccer as a vehicle to build community and fundraising,” Zelko said, noting Gorilla FC's charities encompass a broad spectrum of community interests, including Seattle Education Access, Rainier Valley Food Bank, Friends of the Children, Bikeworks, and Skate Like A Girl.
The beer (described as a "sweet, caramel, roasty, red lovefest" on the GFC website) is available in Section 119 at CenturyLink Field, adjoining Gorilla FC’s home Section 120. “We have members that sit throughout the stadium,” said Zelko, “and they find their way to our section.” The beer is also sold at Starfire Sporting Complex in Tukwila (a southern suburb not far from Big Al headquarters), home field of the USL’s Seattle Sounders 2.
The beer is also served at Big Al’s tasting room, which serves as one of several Gorilla FC watch party locations for Sounders away games.
For Zelko, developing the beer ideas with Brown has been life-changing – Brown hired Zelko to be his sales rep last year to extend their relationship. “It feels like family,” Zelko said. “It’s a great family to be part of.”