Although it still feels like winter outside, pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training next week, which indicates the time for baseball fans to start getting excited. With baseball, of course, comes beer, and for many, an increasingly exciting selection.
The rich tradition of beer and baseball began not surprisingly as an effort by big breweries to reach a captive audience of beer drinkers without those drinkers realizing such product placement. The involvement of the Anheuser-Busch brand with the St. Louis Cardinals is well documented in William Knoedelseder’s recent book Bitter Brew, which details the rise and fall of the Busch family and its brands.
Budweiser is the official sponsor of Major League Baseball, with signage in every ballpark. The Rockies play on Coors Field in Denver, and the Brewers play in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Although many traditionally associate ballpark beers with an overpriced, Big Gulp-sized plastic jug of flat beer, more and more stadiums are embracing customers’ demands for craft and local beers. In addition to the fact that consumers are drinking more craft beer, this invasion is also due in part to the fact that many of the great cities with major league teams and ballparks have killer microbreweries to support nearby. I couldn’t believe it when I was at AT&T Park in San Francisco last year and didn’t have to settle for one of the big three. It was hot, and I admit to pounding Hoegaarden in the outfield seats. Let’s match the best ballparks with their local craft brews.
Fenway Park and Harpoon Brewing (Boston): Harpoon, whose most prominent beers are the Harpoon IPA and UFO (its unfiltered wheat beer), is available at legendary Fenway for the cost of only one arm and one leg.
Yankee Stadium and Brooklyn Brewery (New York City): Brand new Yankee Stadium sells several Brooklyn Brewery beers, including the flagship Brooklyn Lager, as well as Brooklyn Brown and the Brooklyn Pennant Ale, which commemorates the 1955 World Series win by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and contributed funds for the statue of Dodgers Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.
Wrigley Field and Goose Island (Chicago): Chicago’s legendary ballpark is pouring local favorites from Goose Island, including the Belgian-style Matilda. Honker’s Ale, a brown ale, is another Goose Island favorite. With the expansion of California brewery Lagunitas into Chicago and the A-B/InBev purchase of Goose Island, those transplant beers from Lagunitas may become the craft favorites.
AT&T Park and Anchor Brewing (San Francisco): Home of the Giants, this beautiful ballpark on the bay offers Anchor Steam Beer, one of the original craft beers made in the United States. True beer aficionados will enjoy the deep draft list at the Public House entrance, with offerings from Ballast Point, Russian River, the Lost Abbey, and other famous west coast breweries.
Nationals Park/Camden Yards and Flying Dog/Heavy Seas: Our most recent local baseball team is serving up local pints in addition to highlights from phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Flying Dog and Heavy Seas are breweries in nearby Maryland with offerings on tap. These two breweries are unsurprisingly also served up the road at Camden Yards, home to the original home team, the Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards is knocking the craft angle out of the park, with a firkin of cask-conditioned beer going on tap regularly through events at the park.
Great craft beers from their respective cities can also be found on tap at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Dodgers Stadium in L.A., Comerica Park in Detroit, and even in the home of the A-B Eagle, Busch Stadium. These beers are also mostly available at Beer Run and Market Street Wineshop locally. As someone who became a Red Sox fan in Boston while living in the literal shadow of Fenway Park, I would still be more than honored to have Champion Brewing Company’s beer featured at Nationals Stadium and Camden Yards, where I attended my first major league ballgame. I certainly won’t judge if there’s something special about a Bud, Coors, or Miller at the ballgame, but for those who take their beer as seriously as their ball club, these craft draft prospects are exciting to watch.