Cribbage and Craft Beer

Even for the most hearty winter lovers, the frozen stretch from mid-winter to spring is a time when countywide events are left wanting. The plethora of outdoor activities and happenings that make Door County such a great place to be are still a month or two away (depending on how long it takes Mother Nature to run her frigid course) leaving a void for community-wide engagement.

The Door County Brewing Company is doing its part by synthesizing two traditional pastimes: enjoyment of a quality beer and friendly round of Cribbage within a communal setting.

“You can just play sitting in your house and never leave, so this is a nice way to get out and play Cribbage,” says Ben McMahon, taproom manager at the Baileys Harbor brewery and initiator of the First Annual Door County Brewing Co. Cribbage Tournament.

McMahon, an avid Cribbage player himself, spawned the idea to bring together both young and old alike for a game that has its history in a bar setting. Cribbage was originated by the English poet and gambler, Sir John Suckling, in the 17th century. It is a wheeling-and-dealing good time that has transcended generations and is very prevalent in American gaming circles. Popular during World War II, Cribbage became the “official” pastime for American submariners as they passed time on patrol for Japanese ships.

Cribbage is commonly played with two or three people. The objective of the game is to be the first player to score a point total of 121. This is done through a combination of points gathered through dealt hands and strategic card lying to achieve the necessary points.

Players take turns cutting the deck and the player with the lowest card deals first. After shuffling the deck, the dealer will then deal six cards to each player. Players will keep four of the cards and discard two. The discarded cards are placed facedown by the dealer and can’t be touched until the end of the round. This pile is called the “crib.”

After cutting the deck, the dealer will then turn over a card, called the “starter card.” Players alternate laying cards, calling off the running value of cards as they go. Face cards (a king, queen, etc.) have a value of 10, numbered cards have the value of their number, and aces have the value of one. Players continue to lay down cards until they cannot lay down another card without making the value of the cards on the table greater than 31. At this point, the player announces “go,” indicating the next player’s turn. If the next player can’t lay down a card without breaking 31, the round is over.

Add up the points at the end of each successive round. Points are added by tallying the amount any card laying combinations and points received for their hand. The player’s hand is comprised of the four cards they decided to keep at the beginning and the starter card. Calculate the points from the “crib” and add it to the dealer’s score. Turn in the cards and hand the deck to the next dealer. Play is repeated until someone reaches 21.

The tournament will take place on March 14 from 1 – 6 pm. The winner will receive a case of Door County Brewing Co. Beer (a case of root beer if the winner is under 21) and a trophy to rival any you may have on the mantle place.

The event will not only provide an afternoon of the time-tested fun that refreshing craft beer and card games provide, but it will be helping those in need as well. The cost for the tournament is $12 (which includes a free beer for those over 21 and a free root beer for the younger participants) and all proceeds go to the Door County Brewing Co. Charitable Fund to support local entrepreneurs and charities.

“The community has done so much for us, as a people and as a business,” McMahon says. “So we try to do as many things as we can to give back.”