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Gwynn's brew on tap for San Diego Beer Week

AleSmith releasing product late Hall of Fame outfielder helped create
MLB.com @FollowThePadres

SAN DIEGO -- In March, Peter Zien, owner and CEO of San Diego's AleSmith Brewing Company, received a phone call from a local attorney who said his client was interested in collaborating on a beer.

The attorney, as Zien explained it, had seen Zien speak to a group four or five years ago and liked what he stood for and felt he and his client would be a good match.

SAN DIEGO -- In March, Peter Zien, owner and CEO of San Diego's AleSmith Brewing Company, received a phone call from a local attorney who said his client was interested in collaborating on a beer.

The attorney, as Zien explained it, had seen Zien speak to a group four or five years ago and liked what he stood for and felt he and his client would be a good match.

"He said he represented a high-profile sports figure here in San Diego and he asked if I wanted to guess who it was," Zien said. "I got it right on the first guess; Tony Gwynn. But even I wasn't sure if it was real or not."

Soon enough, Zien realized this was no joke, especially after he found himself sitting inside the home of the former Padres' Hall of Fame outfielder, armed with several samples of his beer for him to try.

"We wanted to try to dial him in as far as what he liked and didn't like. He said he didn't want anything dark or too hoppy," Zien said. "He said he didn't know our [beer] lingo. The instructions he gave was he wanted something light with a kick."

The result of that first meeting is AleSmith's San Diego Pale Ale .394, which fits somewhere between an extra pale ale and an IPA, complete with a silhouette of Gwynn and his sweet, left-handed swing on each 12-ounce bottle.

On Sunday, the final day of San Diego Beer Week, AleSmith will release its first 12-ounce six-pack of the beer during a sneak peek party at the brewery. AleSmith is only releasing 119 bottles initially; though it is already promising more is on the way with a permanent spot in the brewery's lineup.

Zien's idea for the beer name was embraced by Gwynn with no reservations. The .394, of course, was Gwynn's batting average in 1994, the year that he won the National League batting title during a strike-shortened season, his brush with .400.

"They loved it," Zien said of the Gwynn family.

And the best part -- one of many for Zien, a longtime baseball fan -- was that Gwynn wasn't only part of the process, testing samples in April and May, but he got to try the finished product before he passed away on June 16 after battling salivary gland cancer.

"When we would bring samples by for him to try, his energy level wasn't great at times, but Tony was always upbeat, determined and optimistic. And he always had that grin," Zien said.

"When he passed away, I called his wife, Alicia, and gave our condolences. I told her that we would do whatever she wanted to. I said, 'tell us to never make it and we won't.' But she said that we needed to do it, that it's going to be a tribute to Tony."

On Sunday, Gwynn's son, former Padres' outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. and his family will be at the brewery. He will take part in an autograph-signing session from 2 to 3 p.m. PT. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the beer will go to the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation.

Gwynn Jr. said he wasn't even really aware of his father's involvement with AleSmith or his interest in craft beer until the process was well underway.

"What I found out was, he was very passionate about it -- and I think you can tell by the finished product," Gwynn Jr. said. "I know in talking with [Zien] that my dad was very adamant and involved in how the beer tasted -- which is funny because when I was around him, he very rarely drank.

"But this was something he was very passionate about. And I think, at the end of the day, it's a way we get to continue his legacy."

As for the beer itself, it weighs in at six-percent ABV (alcohol by volume) and, again, feels like a hybrid of sorts between a traditional pale ale and an IPA. The .394 is aromatic and packed with a citrus punch with enough punch without being the hop bomb prevalent in these parts.

When Gwynn Jr., and the Phillies visited Petco Park this past season, he got a keg for his teammates to enjoy, Zien said.

"I don't know how much craft beer he was drinking before, but he's drinking a lot of it now," Zien said of Gywnn Jr.

Zien, who founded AleSmith in 1995, is looking forward to Sunday's event and the chance to share some .394 with Gwynn Jr. and his family and other fans of the former Padres' legend. From a cold call in March to this, it's been quite a ride.

"We're so sorry to have lost Tony," Zien said. "But I'm happy that in this sense we made his dream come true and I'm grateful we had time to do it. Alicia told me that even on the weekend that he passed that he was talking about the beer and how grateful he was it happened. I feel great about that."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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