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Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company

For more than a decade, Joe Thomas was one of the best at his position, protecting the seemingly endless revolving door of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks. In the process, Thomas earned 10 trips to the Pro Bowl – and most likely a bust in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This Sunday will mark the first time since 2006 that the Browns will take the field without Thomas, however he’ll probably be visible all around the FirstEnergy Stadium parking lot as the team prepares to take on the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.

Last month, Great Lakes Brewing Company, a robust Cleveland-based brewery, announced 73, a limited edition Kolsch-Style Ale in collaboration with the 33-year-old former offensive tackle. The light, crisp tailgate-approved offering, which is brewed with rye, is named for Thomas’ old uniform number and as of Sept. 4, it will be available for purchase in both draft and six-pack cans throughout the Cleveland area, though it won’t likely make it through the entire 2018 season. It’s 5.7% alcohol by volume and rated a 20 on the International Bitterness Unit scale, perfect for a full afternoon of emvibing.

The idea came about when Thomas bonded over beer with his next door neighbor, the CEO of Great Lakes Brewing Company, Bill Boor. Apparently, it had been in talks for a while but that whole successful NFL career was kind of getting in the way of making it all happen. In June, Thomas visited the brewery, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary, to collaborate with the company’s brewers and taste a sample batch of 73 with others.

“I love craft beer, and throughout my career in Cleveland I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the best from Great Lakes,” Thomas said in a statement. “I had 11 pro seasons in Cleveland and they’ve had 30, so we’re a good, seasoned match. It’s been so much fun going through the entire process from design through brewing the first batch at the pub.”

Fall is the perfect time of year to brew a Kolsch and this particular eye-catching effort will likely be popping up all around the city for the 2018, or as long as it’s available. I’m sure many Clevelanders will be raising a toast to Thomas, who holds the record for most consecutive snaps played, and thanking him for his years of hard work and dedication, as a bright spot on a long-suffering franchise. Great Lakes Brewing just wanted to make sure it was done the right way.  If Thomas doesn’t transition into the broadcast booth like some believe, becoming a brewer in training seems like  it could be a legitimate prospect.

“He embodies so many things we admire at Great Lakes, and in Cleveland,” Boor said in a statement announcing the collaboration.  Reliability, hard work, loyalty, community involvement. The list goes on. After he retired, we agreed to make it happen.  It seems so right for Joe Thomas and Great Lakes to work together on a special beer.”

Who knows, maybe this could be the good luck charm the Browns need?