Beer and Loathing: Taking Stock of the Best and Worst Ballpark Suds
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, Seattle:
2. AT&T Park, San Francisco:
3. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia:
4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh:
5. Petco Park, San Diego:
6. Camden Yards, Baltimore:
7. Comerica Park, Detroit:
8. Citi Field, New York:
9. Miller Park, Milwaukee:
10. Coors Field, Denver:
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).