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NFL Punter Gets Kicks With Pints

Miami's Brandon Fields chats with BC on brewing with Funky Buddha Brewery, self-control, and the craft beer IQ of the NFL.
NFL Miami Dolphins Punter Brandon Fields Beer Connoisseur
Photo Credit: Miami Dolphins

Brandon Fields may be the National Football League’s number one zythophile.

He was drafted in 2007 by the Miami Dolphins, around the same time he also tried his first craft beer, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard ale. Shortly after, he started making his own.

“I first started homebrewing about six years ago, maybe a little more, six or seven,” Fields said. “My wife got me the typical starter kit of the two buckets and all the ingredients, so I started doing it by getting the little clone kits and other half-and-half kits where I’d have some specialty grains but primarily liquid malt – boil it over the stove, throw it in a bucket and add some yeast. Two weeks later you bottle it and see what you get after a couple weeks of conditioning.”Miami Dolphins Punter Brandon Fields Beer Brewing Setup

Once he learned the basics, he began to experiment.

“I started getting more creative with it,” Fields said. “I’d make a few of my own recipes, or I’d order a kit and manipulate it, and then about a year ago I switched to an all-grain system.”

Fields had spent time hanging out at Funky Buddha Brewery in the offseason, not far from where the Dolphins train and play. “They’ve become kind of my mentors,” he said. “Ryan Sentz, one of the founders, actually helped me set up my all-grain system, so he’ll come over and help me brew occasionally. It’s a 15-gallon system, but I make 10 gallons of the base and then split it up into two different five gallon carboys and do different things with it. So I’ll make two different beers every time I brew, just to see how different ingredients affect it.” 

Last year he collaborated with Funky Buddha to make Turtle Power, a chocolate, caramel and pecan porter, with all proceeds going to a local child's hospital fees. Recently he’s made multiple IPAs, a milk stout, a lemon wheat, and is currently fermenting a blonde ale – all out of coconut water.

“I had a whole bunch of coconuts in my backyard and wanted to figure out what to do with them, so I ended up using about 175 coconuts and made about 15 gallons of [coconut] water,” Fields said. “Fermented coconut water is a little different… There’s high sulfur, and there needs to be a sweetness that’s not there… I want to wait until it’s carbonated to see how it turned out.”

Like many brewers, Fields keeps meticulous records in order to refine his recipes. Though he enjoys the relaxing aspect of brewing, it’s also a bit like punting. “For that brew you get one shot,” he said. “You can’t go back and change stuff or ‘Oh I wish I’d done this or that’. You’ve got to decide what exactly you want to do and go for it. Same with punting – when your number’s called, get out there, pick your target, do your job, let it fly, and there’s no second down. Both are very meticulous and detail-oriented.”

Both tasks also require discipline. Many football cities are also beer cities. When asked about balancing enjoyment of beer with being a professional athlete, Fields acknowledges that “there’s a very fine line.” Not only must athletes stay in peak performance shape, but they must also maintain a certain degree of conduct.

NFL Miami Dolphins Punter Brandon Fields Beer Connoisseur“During the season, I don’t drink at all before games,” Fields said. “It’s definitely hard if we’re at a place where I have more time, normally we only have a couple hours, whatever city we’re in, wherever we land, to grab a bite to eat. So that aspect takes a lot of self-control, especially when you go to some places with breweries in the area… but football comes first, it’s my job. In the offseason, if I’m traveling around, I try to see what’s in the area, see what’s good and what’s not.” Bell’s, Great Divide, and Funky Buddha are among his favorites.

Fields’ interest in flavorful beer puts him in the minority, at least among NFL players. “I’m sure there are some other guys on other teams that are [into craft beer],” he said. “Here there’s not. I had a buddy who was on the team the last few years, he was my guinea pig. I’d have him try different stuff and he’d give me feedback, but for the most part, a lot of guys don’t. They like your typical Bud Light, stuff like that.”

When asked if that has anything to do with certain macro-brewery sponsorships, Fields responds that it’s more of a matter of uninitiated palates. “A lot of it’s just taste,” he said.  “You’ve also got to remember a lot of young guys are just coming out of college where that’s primarily what they drink. I didn’t start getting into craft beer until a couple years out of college. It’s just what they know. I try to educate some guys. Some guys it’s worked, other guys it hasn’t.”

So what’s the craft beer IQ of the NFL?

“Very low. Just going off my experience of the guys that I know that have come in these doors. From a player standpoint it’s very low. I’ve talked about it more with various staff and other people outside of actual players than I have with players themselves… But there’s the right craft beer for everybody, you’ve just gotta find it.”

Finding the right beer is getting easier to do – even football stadiums are adding craft taps. Fields has considered opening a brewery himself, post-football. “A couple names are floating around,” Fields says. “But just Brando’s Brew right now.”