White Lion Brewing unveils Marcus Camby beer in Springfield (PHOTOS)

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  • White Lion Brewing released the Marcus Camby New England IPA on Thursday at the brewery in Springfield. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • White Lion Brewing released the Marcus Camby New England IPA on Thursday at the brewery in Springfield. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Marcus Camby takes a sip of the White Lion New England IPA named after him at the brewery in Springfield on Thursday. Camby collaborated with White Lion, UMass and other entities for the partnership. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • White Lion Brewery owner Ray Berry hands Marcus Camby a glass of Marcus Camby New England IPA on Thursday at the brewery in Springfield. The UMass basketball legend was on hand for the brew’s release party. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass basketbal legend Marcus Camby, left, chats with Springfield mayor Domenic Sarno at White Lion Brewery in Springfield on Thursday. Camby was in town for the release of his collaboration beer with the brewery. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass legend Marcus Camby signed autographs at White Lion Brewery on Thursday in Springfield as part of the release celebration of his collaboration beer. UMass fan and season ticket holder Mark Groffman, right, was among the first in line. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • UMass basketball legend Marcus Camby puts his hand on White Lion Brewing owner Ray Berry’s shoulder after taking his first sip of a New England IPA named after him Thursday in Springfield. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • The Marcus Camby New England IPA beer release at White Lion Brewery in Springfield on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2022 7:58:31 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 7:57:40 PM

SPRINGFIELD – Marcus Camby raised his glass filled with his beer.

The assembled crowd applauded as the UMass basketball legend, former national player of the year and All-American sipped the Marcus Camby New England IPA at White Lion Brewing on Thursday.

He pulled it down, gazing at its tropical yellow hue and nodded.

“This is still surreal for me,” Camby said. “I remember – when I was of age – at school, throwing a few back. Now I have my own beer right here. This is surreal.”

The brew was four months in the making and the result of a partnership among Camby, White Lion Brewing, Springfield basketball legend Travis Best, UMass’ Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, and others. Camby met White Lion owner Ray Berry at Best’s Hall of Fame enshrinement party in September not long after his statue was unveiled outside the Mullins Center. 

Curious about the operation, Camby asked for a tour that Berry was happy to give. They realized they had a mutual interest in collaboration, and the Marcus Camby New England IPA is the first fruit of that partnership. Camby was interested in being more than a face for the beer, however. He wanted to know about what went on behind the scenes at the business like the distribution and other aspects of making the beer successful.

“You can’t do things on your own. You have to work as a collective body,” Berry said. “This is a demonstration of so many pieces of the puzzle coming together.”

The Basketball Hall of Fame also collaborated with the release, and John Doleva, the Hall’s president, joked, “I’m glad I don’t feel any pressure about Marcus’ candidacy.”

“I’m eligible,” Camby replied. He’s on the long list of candidates for induction in 2022.

Springfield mayor Domenic Sarno attended the ceremony and reminisced about Camby and the Minutemen taking down No. 1 Arkansas in 1994, commenting on the electricity that team brought to the region. He also pointed out how Camby continually returned to Western Massachusetts and gave back to the community even though he’s from Hartford, Conn., and hasn’t lived in the area since he left UMass.

Camby holds a special place in the hearts of UMass fans, and they traveled from across the state for him. Season ticket holder Mark Groffman and his wife Kathryn came from Hampden “75 percent for Marcus, 25 percent for the beer,” he said.

“I graduated in 1969 when Julius Erving was a freshman and I was a senior," he said. “I got to see the whole basketball history.”

Patrick Flattery drove out from Auburn, as he regularly does for games. He asked Camby to sign several posters and picked up a pint of the newly released beer. 

“I’m here for Marcus, but I am a big craft beer guy. So it sort of hit the sweet spot,” Flattery said right before he took his first sip. “That’s a good beer.”

The 6.4 percent beer goes down smooth. It features citrus notes and very little bitterness. Nothing about it overwhelms.

“We just wanted to make something that was an approachable beer that a lot of people would enjoy. It’s got a little kick to it but not too crazy,” head brewer Mike Yates said. “Marcus wanted something people could enjoy and something that was obviously popular.”

Camby told the brewers broadly what he wanted and let them work like talented scorers with the ball in their hands.

“I don’t tell him how to play basketball,” Yates joked. “He gave parameters and what he was looking for.”

Though the beer is Camby’s first with White Lion, both he and Berry indicated they should have more ventures in the future. 

“We’ve got some things going down the line that I think the whole state will be proud of,” Camby said.

The Marcus Camby NEIPA is available at the brewery in Springfield currently and will be sold at the Mullins Center during UMass athletic events this winter.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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