Posted May 15, 2013

Beer and Loathing: Taking Stock of the Best and Worst Ballpark Suds

Food
Saundi Wilson Photography

Saundi Wilson Photography

As someone who both writes about baseball and loves beer (I’m partial to microbrewed porters, stouts and dark ales), I’ve become uniquely attuned to the craft beer situation at major league parks. This is in part because the offerings at the venue I frequent the most, Yankee Stadium, are so abysmal. (Carrying the usual domestic swill is one thing, but if you’re going to have foreign brands, at least go with ones that aren’t so readily available.) Mercifully, many stadiums do it better, and I try to keep up with the influx of craft beers into ballparks by checking out lists such as this recent one from the Daily Meal. Having attended just five of the venues on that round-up, I can’t fully critique the rankings. What I can do is consider the beers I’ve sampled in my travels and highlight the best one from each stadium on their list. (For a more comprehensive look at each park’s beer roster, check out Daily Meal’s slideshow.)

1. Safeco Field, Seattledales250
Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale

2. AT&T Park, San Francisco: 
Russian River Blind Pig IPA

3. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia: 
Troeg’s Sunshine Pils

4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh: 
Victory HopDevil IPA

5. Petco Park, San Diego: 
Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

6. Camden Yards, Baltimore: 
Heavy Seas Gold Ale

7. Comerica Park, Detroit: 
Founders All Day IPA

8. Citi Field, New York: 
Sixpoint Sweet Action

9. Miller Park, Milwaukee: 
Lakefront Wisconsinite Summer Weiss Beer

10. Coors Field, Denver: 
Dale’s Pale Ale

Based on time spent at Safeco, AT&T, Camden Yards, Citi Field and Miller Park, I can say that all of them deserve their inclusion on the Daily Meal list, and I can’t argue with the omission of Dodger Stadium or Wrigley Field, both with notoriously lousy beer selections. I didn’t get enough of a look around Safeco to place it above AT&T, where the local fare is a veritable Murderer’s Row. I’m particularly impressed and intrigued by the two Pennsylvania ballparks, both of which combine great local/regional brands with a cross section of national standbys. Hopefully I’ll at least get down to Philadelphia this season to check that out for myself.

As for Yankee Stadium, I joked on Twitter that belonged at #31, below even Puerto Rico’s out-of-circulation Hiram Bithorn Stadium. While the Bronx ballpark touts “Beers Around the World” at various stations scattered throughout, they’re the Heinken, Becks and Guinness offerings you can get at virtually any bar, hardly unique to the ballpark experience — better than Bud Light, perhaps, but not exactly crafty.

When the Yanks tried to spruce things up this year, they did so in laughably inept fashion. They installed a so-called “Craft Beer Destination,” with four offerings — Batch 19, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy and Crispin Cider — that were all products of the MillerCoors conglomerate, which controls 30 percent of the market and is anything but a microbrewer; hiding those big brands behind small labels is an ongoing trend borne of industry consolidation and, often, deception. Only two of the four were actually beers (shandy is a mix between beer and soda) and none had any connection to the local beer scene in New York, which, as you might imagine, is formidable.

Stung by the ridicule, the Yankees soon thereafter rebranded the stand as a “Beer Mixology Destination”, as though some marketing assistant swiped a wordcloud from some focus group. Note that nothing is actually being mixed at said destination (though a smaller display offers some unappealing suggestions) and that the description of Batch 19′s “bold, happy taste” should be “bold, hoppy taste.” Sheesh.

For more beer chatter, follow me on Twitter (@jay_jaffe) or Untappd (@jay_jaffe).

9 comments
scott.cover
scott.cover like.author.displayName 1 Like

Seriously? Heavy Seas Gold is the "best" that OPACY has to offer? Flying Dog Raging Bitch, Loose Cannon, Lot 3? Any one of them is 10x the beer that the Gold Ale is...

StevenKeys
StevenKeys

I take umbrage at your harsh assessment of the style of beer preferred by most Americans, the lighter, more affordable and more refreshing lager & pilsner forms of brew.  I'm guessing those are the beers you refer to as "abysmal," "usual domestic swill" and "lousy."  You prefer the bitter, more expensive blends of specialty beers now flooding the market (stouts / ales), fair enough, but a bit of objectivity here would be most welcomed, Jay.

How 'bout the next cut & paste tour of ballparks be one "checking out lists" of pricing for beer and the like.  Clue us in on which owners want more fans coming through the turnstiles and which are too greedy to care.

2001BlakeSt
2001BlakeSt

Coors Field at #10? Really? I have to wonder if this guy has even set foot in Coors Field. I'll let Seattle, San Fran, and San Diego be in the argument, but the rest of your list is littered with east coast beer that is generally considered garbage by craft beer aficionados. By the way, Blue Moon was first brewed at Coors Field, and that beer would be on the low end of the craft beers offered around Coors Field. 

Robert77
Robert77

At Yankee Stadium, when you can't simply fork over a $20 for 2 beers and leave a $1 tip....something is very wrong (and even when you could, that was highway robbery).

RSF
RSF

Jsmoothrips, Boulevard has a good distributor in Massachusetts.  The Tank 7 saison is great, as are the Single and Double-Wide IPAs.  If they're serving any of those at Kauffman Stadium, that's another good reason to take in a Royals' game.

FCC
FCC

Enjoying the victory brew love in the news recently. Pa brews in general are top notch.

DailyBeerReview
DailyBeerReview

The WORST is Marlins Park. If you make it to Miami, be sure to drink in the parking lot before you go in!

jsmoothrips
jsmoothrips like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wow,  no love for Kauffman stadium and Boulevard Brewing Company!