Baseball is officially back, but let me say, it’s not an easy time to be a craft beer–loving baseball fan in New York. While the Yankees and Mets look to be in rebuilding mode on the field, both stadiums are changing up their craft beer offerings, too. When Citi Field hiked the prices on beer at the more famous stadium eateries like Shake Shack and Blue Smoke, Brooklyn Brewery was switched for InBev offerings like Blue Moon and Bud Light. Crosstown rivals aren’t doing much better, as photos recently surfaced online of their new “Craft Beer Stand,” which ironically features “crafty” beers from Coors, for $12 a pop.
Yankees fans can now drink beers from Bronx Brewery and Mets fans can still find Sixpoint and Brooklyn Brewery beers, but you may have to hunt for these, while bigger beers are more widely available at Yankee Stadium and CitiField. While things seem to be going in the wrong direction in the Bronx and Queens, we’re happy to say there are plenty of excellent ballparks worth seeking out for their beer selection, both in the MLB and the minor leagues, and even great ballpark events geared toward craft beer lovers.
Here are 10 of the most encouraging baseball craft beer stories for 2013:
1. Hanging steady with the majors
Boulevard Brewing Company is one of biggest craft breweries in the U.S., but there’s no way it can compete with the likes of Coors, Miller and Anheuser-Busch, right? Wrong! After signing a major sponsorship deal with the Kansas City Royals in 2012, they are king of the ballpark there. Boulevard has a huge sign in left field, a pub, two Boulevard grills and even fresh drafts of their popular Unfiltered Wheat Beer dispensed from backpack-mounted kegs (FTW!!!).
2. Discounted craft beer at Fenway
Boston’s Fenway Park is known for having some of the highest-priced, least crafty beer in all of baseball. Well, not anymore! This year they’ve introduced a host of craft brews to the ballpark, but wait, there’s more. They’re giving you a chance to save on excellent local brews like Wachusett Brewing Company’s Green Monsta IPA and Cisco Brewers Inc.’s Whale’s Tale for only $5 the whole month of of April! We don’t need to tell you that’s a steal, and if you’re still mad at the cost of brews at the ballpark, we assure you it’s ultimately for your safety. We wouldn’t want a repeat of the 1974 Ten Cent Beer Night incident.
3. San Francisco Giants beer festival
Minor league ballparks sometimes serve as venues for beer festivals, but the Major League teams are stepping up to the plate, too. Check out San Francisco Giants Brewfest at AT&T Park on July 20, where fans can enjoy a variety of different Northern California microbrews. There is also an Oktoberfest celebration on September 26. Then again, such creativity isn’t that surprising, considering that this is the team that brought you Star Wars Day.
4. More from San Francisco: Anchor Plaza
As if a brewfest wasn’t enough, the San Francisco Giants raised the craft brewing bar last year when they teamed up with Anchor Brewing Company to open Anchor Plaza, a beer garden in the ballpark with plenty of stands selling awesome craft brews. In February, Giants fans were given an even bigger reason to celebrate when they announced plans for a new Anchor brewery right across McCovey Cove on Pier 48. Construction won’t begin until 2014, but this means much more Anchor beer around the stadium for years to come.
5. Underdog Orioles meet Flying Dog beers at Camden Yards
The Orioles had an incredible run last year, all the way to game five of the Division Series versus the Yankees. Last season was also notable for Orioles fans thanks to Flying Dog Brewery, which produced Camden Yards–exclusive, cask-conditioned ales. On April 27, they’ll continue a tradition started last year known as “Firkin Friday,” where they’ll be pouring their delicious Single Hop Imperial IPA with Citra hops all game long (or until they run out!). You can find a full lineup of the firkin casks online.
6. Craft innovation is a home run at Citizens Bank Park
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania-based Sly Fox Brewing Company made a craft beer breakthrough when they created a can with a removable lid. While the Helles lager will be widely available, the Pikeland Pils will be exclusive to Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. This isn’t one of those dopey macro innovations like Miller’s retro-esque punch-top can, it’s a worthy innovation even Mets fans might travel for (maybe).
7. Beer passport at PNC park
After 20 consecutive losing seasons, Pittsburgh Pirates fans need a silver lining. One is clearly the rise of All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen, one of the most exciting players in the game. Another reason to head to PNC Park is the incredible beer selection — it has our current vote for best craft selection, with the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark a close second. You might not need a passport to travel to the game, but you should get a beer passport regardless, a discounted ticket to the game which includes a pre-game beer tasting for 90 minutes before the game and a $5 voucher for the concession area. Try great local options like Church Brew Works Celestial Gold, Victory Brewing Company Prima Pils, Tröegs Brewing Company Hopback Amber Ale and plenty more from around the country. Don’t miss the Bell’s Brewery tasting night in August. It sure beats a free bobblehead.
8. Hillsboro Hops slides into a new home plate
Unfortunately, Oregon doesn’t have a MLB team, but you can still drink great craft beer at the ballpark thanks to the Class-A Hillsboro (wait for it) Hops. Yes, that’s right, beer officially has a baseball team, and a hop mascot, too. While the team doesn’t kick off games until June 17, fans can try beer from BridgePort Brewing Company, which signed on to be the team’s official beer sponsor for the next three years.
9. “Baseball Beer” by Hangar 24
More awesome minor league news hit late last week: one of our favorite West Coast breweries, which already makes one of our favorite spring beers, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, is making a beer specifically for the ballpark. Baseball Beer — yes, that’s really what it’s called — makes its debut tomorrow, April 4, at the home opener of the San Bernardino–based Inland Empire 66ers. The beer, a 4.8% blend of Pilsner and American Wheat Beer, sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a great game on a hot day. Now in their sixth season working with the 66ers, Hangar 24 will be the official sponsor of Thirsty Thursday homes games, where $3 pints are sure to have the crowd going wild.
10. Have your bats and drink them, too!
The most exciting story involving baseball and beer may actually be taking place outside the park. Back in 2011, Chris Ray, then a Seattle Mariners relief pitcher and avid homebrewer, teamed up with Seattle local Fremont Brewing Company to create a beer to give back to the community. They called the final product Homefront IPA, and it was a total hit. This west coast IPA is aged on baseball bats (yes, actual baseball bats donated by Louisville Slugger), and the proceeds are donated to Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistance to the families of armed services members. Ray now has his own brewery in Ashland, Virginia called Center of the Universe Brewing Company. They’re teaming up with nine other breweries around the country, including Stone Brewing Company and Cigar City Brewing, who will each brew their own batch for the cause. Look for it at the end of May.
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