A 73 Kolsch Chat with Joe Thomas

Hut, hut, brew! 73 Kolsch, our limited edition Kolsch-Style Ale brewed in collaboration with Cleveland football hero Joe Thomas, is huddling in coolers and on tap all throughout Northern Ohio. First brewed in 2018, this special collaboration is our way of honoring a local legend with a tasty tribute. We chatted with our Canton-bound football hero on the creation of 73 Kolsch, how it feels wearing a gold jacket, and much more. 

We first brewed 73 Kolsch after your retirement from the NFL in 2018. How did you and our brewers decide upon the unique recipe for this Kolsch-style ale? 
First, Mark Hunger (GLBC Brewmaster), Steve Forman (GLBC Pub Brewing Manager) and I took a very important step for recipe development… taste testing! The brewers laid out a dozen or so styles of beer (at 8 in the morning, I might add), we tasted them all, and I told the guys what elements I liked best. Kolsch was the easy winner because it's so refreshing and not too hoppy, but we did want to find a way to differentiate ours from the others. So we added rye for a little bit of sharpness, but also snuck in some corn to make sure this 5.7% ABV beer was still super drinkable.
Scenes from the first 73 Kolsch brew day, including Joe completing every collaborator's favorite brewhouse task: graining out!
What is it about 73 Kolsch that you enjoy the most? 
As someone who lives and breathes football, one of the things I love most about 73 Kolsch is that it’s the perfect tailgate beer, no matter the weather. Since it’s so crisp and drinkable, it will keep you cool in September, and (as a slightly stronger version of a traditional Kolsch) it will also keep you warm by the shores of Lake Erie in December.
Ok, so we know your favorite GLBC beer is 73 Kolsch. Second favorite? 
Dortmunder Gold Lager is one of my all-time favorites, but I also love the nitro-poured Edmund Fitzgerald Porter I've had on past visits to the brewpub. So smooth! It’s available only at the brewpub, but it’s worth a trip for that one alone. 

Speaking of gold… Congratulations on your induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame! How does it feel?
It’s an incredible feeling that Browns fans can celebrate one of their own going into the Hall of Fame.  Few things from my football life make me happier than knowing fans are proud of the career I had wearing an orange helmet. I also have so many former teammates who feel a special connection to my path to Canton. I couldn’t have gotten there without them, after all! They’re all essential pieces of the puzzle that resulted in my Hall of Fame bust.

What are you doing to celebrate your induction? And how are you incorporating 73 Kolsch into the festivities?
You mean other than tipping back a few cans? We’re having a huge party in the Canton area! Lots of friends and family will be there, alongside coaches and teammates that were part of my journey to the Hall of Fame. It’ll be great to reconnect with some former colleagues that I just don’t get to see very often anymore. I can’t wait to share some stories from the good old days over a cold brew or two. You know we’ll have 73 Kolsch on tap! We’re also sending party guests home with 6-Packs of the beer, alongside t-shirts and can sleeves from the limited GV Art induction-themed merch collection.

Scenes from the sold out 2022 Brewmaster's Dinner with Joe Thomas on the GLBC brewpub patio
Quite the celebration! Being a foodie, we’re sure you’ll be serving some great grub too. Do you have any classic Wisconsin or Cleveland food pairing suggestions for 73 Kolsch?
For food pairing, I have to go with a classic Friday night fish fry. It’s a Wisconsin staple, and pretty Cleveland too if you ask me. Few things wash down a plate of fried food better than a Kolsch. By the way, I travel all over the country covering football and Cleveland has one of the best foodie scenes in the country. Outside the people, it’s my favorite thing about the city. 

That’s awesome! Speaking of food… what was your cheat meal during your playing years?
Believe it or not, my favorite cheat meal while I was playing was vegetables. Not kidding! As a guy who was desperately trying to gain weight my entire career, I couldn’t waste any space on food that wasn’t high in calories and sugar, so a good meal of vegetables was definitely cheating. 
Cheat meal now is a lot different! It’s everything and anything, but most importantly: supreme pizza with hot wings, fried cheese curds, and a boatload of Weber’s Custard or Mitchell’s Ice Cream (like, 2 cones of 2 scoops each). And beer, of course.
I love it! How about a little more about you? Favorite football memory from your career? 
Oh man… favorite football memory has to be beating the Giants at home on Monday Night Football the year after they won the Super Bowl. Felt good taking down the champs in front of the Dawg Pound faithful! A close second is the 2007 “Snow Bowl” versus Buffalo. We got seven inches of snow in the first 90 minutes of the game!
Now, when it comes to Joe Thomas stories, none beat out the draft day fishing story. Why do you think that story is so impactful?
I think my draft day story resonates with people because, before I did it, no potential draftees even considered missing the big event. When I decided to go fishing with my dad instead, it gave people (both potential draftees and NFL fans) the chance to reconsider their priorities. Many really identified with the relationship that I have with my dad and how special that is, how similar our values and priorities are. Fans were able to identify with me and put themselves in my shoes, which is something that fans don’t get to do a lot. 
More scenes from 2022's Brewmaster's Dinner with Joe, including an appearance from The Macho Fan
What’s your favorite part of our 73 Kolsch partnership? (Other than having your face on a beer can!)
Since I live outside Madison these days, I especially love mid-August when GLBC shows up to the Great Taste of the Midwest with 73 Kolsch because it’s a great way to show off in front of my buddies! I also love our Brewmaster’s Dinner, where I get to just hang out with Browns fans who have become staples at every 73 Kolsch event we’ve had since the partnership started. 
But honestly, being a Wisconsin boy and a Clevelander at heart, collaborating with GLBC just brings me a lot of pride. I love collaborating with the greatest craft brewery in the country! 
Ready to stock up on 73 Kolsch for football season? Use our Beer Finder to find some near you.
Words by Joe Thomas and Michael Williams
Photos by Vicki Campana and Adam Ritterspach

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