Ballpark Brews: Craft Beer Steps Up to the Plate
More than any other major sport, baseball is tied to beer. There’s just something about passing an afternoon gazing lazily out over an emerald field with a brew in hand. For quite some time, though, beer lovers have been left with few options at their favorite team’s ballpark.
By Nick Kaye
Not anymore. In recent years, parks around the country have begun tilting their selections in favor of craft and local beers. From perennial contenders for the title of best beer selection, like Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Miller Park in Milwaukee, AT&T Park in San Francisco and Safeco Field in Seattle, to stadiums with up-and-coming lineups, like Citi Field in New York and Nationals Park in Washington, good beer has arrived at the ballgame. You might have to trek a bit to find it – or have access to high-end suites and club seating areas – but more often than not the beers you crave are there.
As Andy Buchanan, the editorial director of the Wise Guides series of guidebooks, put it recently, it seems like beer has “always been a part of the experience” of visiting a ballpark. Wise Guides, which launched in 2005 with a book on Wrigley Field in Chicago, now offers tips on visiting every Major League Baseball stadium on its Web site (www.wiseguidesonline.com). Buchanan said he is “excited by this trend, seeing more craft beers and independent labels in the ballparks. You are seeing it in almost every ballpark now,” he noted. This time of year, when winter wanes and spring training kicks into gear, baseball is in the air, and lately good news abounds for those who would rather pair their hot dog with an I.P.A. rather than the usual light lager. Here are some highlights of beer offerings at ballparks around the country. One note – at press time a number of parks were still setting their beer lists for this season, so some selections may be subject to change. Play ball!
When your team is named the Brewers, you better have a serious beer selection. Thankfully, Miller Park does not disappoint. With so many standout breweries in its backyard, how could it? The park, which has seen attendance rise sharply in recent years, offers plenty of Miller and Coors brews, of course, but it also gives fans an array of local craft beers to enjoy while watching the famed Sausage Race. There are beers from MillerCoors-owned Leinenkugel’s, including the Creamy Dark lager and 1888 Bock; Lakefront; Sprecher; Horny Goat Brewing; the Capital Brewery; Stevens Point Brewery; Tyranena Brewing Co; and, last but far from least, New Glarus Brewing Company, whose Spotted Cow ale – a passion among beer geeks – was served in the park’s suites last year. Tickets: www.brewers.mlb.com.
It has been nearly 15 years since Anheuser-Busch sold the Cardinals, but the brewer, which along with InBev now makes up the world’s largest, is still synonymous with all things St. Louis, including the hometown club. Luckily for fans, however, the “king of beers” does leave room for some local craft brews at the new Busch Stadium. Schlafly, made by the Saint Louis Brewery, has been sold at Cardinals games for more than a decade now, and lately its pale ale has been joined by the nearby O’Fallon Brewery, which offers its flagship golden ale, as well as the Kansas City- based Boulevard Brewing Company, whose unfiltered wheat makes for a popular antidote to sweltering summer days. Goose Island from Chicago is also on hand, despite the inveterate Cubs rivalry. Tickets: www.cardinals.mlb.com.
In the LoDo district of downtown Denver, just down the street from beer landmarks like Great Divide Brewing Company, the Falling Rock Taphouse and Wynkoop Brewing Company, Coors Field, which opened in 1995, remains one of the league’s most impressive parks. With Rocky Mountain peaks painted across the horizon, it’s a gaudily beautiful scene that’s made even more memorable accompanied by good beer. There are a full range of Coors brews and other macros available, including Blue Moon, whose name is now emblazoned on the popular Sandlot brewpub in the park’s right-field corner, where it was created. But visitors will also find Dale’s Pale Ale by Oskar Blues, New Belgium’s ubiquitous Fat Tire and Boulder Beer Company’s Singletrack Copper Ale and Hazed & Infused dry-hopped ale. Tickets: www.rockies.mlb.com.
Top of the Order
The Phillies may have come up short in their bid to repeat as
champions last year, but in terms of beer selection Citizens Bank
Park is hard to outdo. The park, which opened in 2004, has been called the best around for beer. That’s not surprising, considering the area’s wealth of top-notch breweries. Offered at the park last year were locals like Tröegs Sunshine Pils, Victory HopDevil Ale, Stoudt’s American Pale Ale, Yards Tavern Ale, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale and Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Walt Wit ale and Kenzinger golden, as well as other popular brews like Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Tickets: www.phillies.mlb.com.
Washington is craft beer royalty, and so is the Mariners’ home field, Safeco. In addition to sake, fans have a wide array of brews to choose from, including many locals, like Manny’s Pale Ale, Snoqualmie Falls Grand Slam amber, Mac & Jack’s African Amber, Georgetown 9lb. Porter, Hale’s Mongoose IPA and a number of Pyramid and Redhook beers, most of which are on draft. Add to that beers from New Belgium, Deschutes, MacTarnahan’s Full Sail and Alaskan Brewing Company, and you’ve got plenty to distract fans from the team’s recent postseason drought. Tickets: www.mariners.mlb.com.
The home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is not widely known as a beer town, but compared to other stadiums, Progressive Field’s beer selection is a true ace. According to Dan Smith, the team’s food and beverage V.P., beer offerings are tweaked throughout the season to appeal to fans of the visiting club. That means it is possible to find brews by beloved brands like Bell’s, New Holland, Avery, Bear Republic, Moylan’s, Full Sail, Weyerbacher, Sam Adams, Harpoon, Goose Island and Dogfish Head, depending on who’s in town. And of course the local Great Lakes Brewing Company is well-represented, with six of its brews, including the Dortmunder Gold lager and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, available at the park last year. Tickets: www.indians.mlb.com.
By all accounts, PNC Park, which opened in 2001 just across the Allegheny River from downtown, has been a huge success. Known as one of the most beautiful parks around, it has excelled even while the Pirates have struggled to stay relevant. But no matter how much the team loses, beer lovers will continue to bask in the glory of the park’s offerings. There’s more than enough to keep you smiling during a blow-out, with beers available from the hometown Church Brew Works, Pennsylvania Brewing Company, East End Brewing Company and Iron City Brewing Company, which last year relocated to Latrobe, Pa., as well as Straub, Erie Brewing – whose Railbender Ale, available at the park, took gold at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival – and, of course, Yuengling. Also available are Dogfi sh Head, Magic Hat, Abita, Great Lakes Brewing, Flying Dog and Bell’s. Now that’s an All-Star lineup. Tickets: www.pirates.mlb.com.
The San Diego area’s brewing scene has exploded in recent years, and PETCO Park, home of the Padres, has made a point to reflect the city’s rise through the craft beer ranks. Last year fans were greeted by beers from area breweries and brewpubs including Stone (Levitation, Pale Ale, IPA), Green Flash (IPA), Ballast Point (Yellowtail Pale Ale) and Karl Strauss (Red Trolley Ale). And as if that’s not enough, they could also choose among brews from heavyweights like Rogue, Sierra Nevada, Pyramid, Anderson Valley, Firestone Walker and Alaskan Brewing Co. It’s enough to make you want to join the Navy. Tickets: www.padres.mlb.com.
Yankees vs. Mets
When both New York ballclubs moved into new stadiums last season, the competition between the teams heated up even more than usual. And while both parks received good reviews, Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, was named the clear winner of the best beer selection prize. There, visitors found Blue Point Toasted Lager from Long Island, New York; Goose Island IPA from Chicago and fi ve Brooklyn Brewery styles, including some rare offerings like the Blanche de Queens Belgian-style ale and Shackmeister pale ale. As for the mighty Yankees, whose former beer sponsor, Ballantine, made the trip to the new stadium, the local craft brew selection there unfortunately began and ended with Brooklyn Lager. It remains to be seen how the current champions will respond this year, but if a subway series beer battle breaks out, it’s the fans who are sure to come out on top. Tickets: www.yankees.mlb.com and www.mets.mlb.com.
Giants vs. Athletics
While the two Bay Area teams may not have the kind of virulent on-field rivalry that consumes other neighboring clubs, things can get nasty fast when it comes to beer. After all, this is Northern California, an epicenter of craft brewing. Both parks offer beers from nearby Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada, as well as Pyramid, Redhook, Widmer Brothers and New Belgium. But the waterfront AT&T Park in San Francisco, which no doubt comes out on top in terms of sheer scenery, goes much further, offering beers from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery; Trumer Brauerei, the Austrian brewer with a Berkeley, Calif., outpost; the local Speakeasy Ales & Lagers; and Mendocino Brewing Company. Don’t count out the A’s, though. With an annual beer festival including the likes of 21st Amendment, Bear Republic, Firestone Walker and others, Oakland is keeping the pressure on. Tickets: www.giants.mlb.com and www.athletics.mlb.com.
Cubs vs. White Sox
For all the mystique within Wrigley Field’s ivy-covered walls, the park has long struck out on beer. The most notable brew offered there has to be Old Style lager, which is owned by Pabst and referred to as “real Cub beer” by Wrigley’s vendors. Nostalgia aside, the selection is hardly representative of the city’s vibrant beer landscape, and local beer lovers make a point to quaff craft brews before and after games in the many popular bars surrounding the park, like Murphy’s Bleachers and the Goose Island Brewpub. On the south side of town, however, U.S. Cellular Field gives fans more reasons to cheer. There, you can get Goose Island’s Honkers Ale English-style bitter and Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat, Red Lager and Honey Weiss, in addition to Old Style and various widely distributed domestic and import brews. The flames of the Crosstown Classic hardly need fanning, but as far as beer selections go, it’s clear to see who the favorite is. Tickets: www.cubs.mlb.com and www.whitesox.mlb.com.
Angels vs. Dodgers
Last season the Angels and Dodgers were only a handful of wins away from turning the World Series into a showdown along Interstate 5. Unfortunately for beer fans, the Los Angeles area has not had as much success in brewing, with a burgeoning but far less-developed scene than other parts of the beer-soaked state. That lack of well-known local brews – other than notable exceptions like the Bruery – is on display at Dodger Stadium, which offers not much more than the requisite light lagers like Bud, Coors and Miller, along with a few imports, Pyramid’s Haywire hefeweizen, Sam Adams Boston Lager and some Gordon Biersch brews. Meanwhile, down in Anaheim fans can choose among beers from Firestone Walker, Pyramid, New Belgium (Fat Tire, of course), Kona and Sierra Nevada. Sorry Dodgers fans, but the Angels win this round. Tickets: www.angels.mlb.com and www.dodgers.mlb.com.
Nationals vs. Orioles
When baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005, the seed was planted for a Washington-Baltimore rivalry that is steadily picking up steam. Last season a new level was added to the matchup, as the Nationals revamped the beer selection at their now two-year-old park. From warm-weather beers like Bell’s Oberon and Harpoon’s Summer to more sturdy brews, including Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA, Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout and Stone Arrogant Bastard, the park has become a beer lover’s dream. But don’t underestimate the Orioles. Camden Yards featured plenty of local beer, from brewers like Clipper City, Flying Dog, Fordham Brewing Company and Wild Goose. Despite the fact that both teams finished dead last in their respective leagues in 2009, the Beltway Series continues to heat up, and it seems certain that good beer will be along for the ride. Tickets: www.nationals.mlb.com and www.orioles.mlb.com.