Today marks the opening day of the 2012 baseball season, and few things pair better with beer than an afternoon at the ballpark watching America’s pastime. Beer and baseball are inexorably linked; their histories woven together and their futures equally tangled as craft beer struggles to replace American light lager at the taps of stadiums across the country.
Beer and Baseball
Los Angeles is a remarkable example of the ties between beer and baseball. Some of the first professional baseball played in the city was around the turn-of-the-century when the Pacific League’s Los Angeles Angels played games in a 10,000 seat baseball diamond owned by Joseph Maier (who also owned LA’s first brewery). The Maier family would later open more breweries and start a rival baseball team to give the Angels some more competition. Baseball fans get thirsty sitting in those bleachers, and brewers can sell a lot of beer in stadiums. The story of brewing begetting baseball is similar in many cities around the country.
Even today three major league stadiums are named for big American brewers, Coors Field in Colorado, Miller Park in Milwaukee, and Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and the rivalries between the companys run deep. Hopefully, the days of having to settle for watery light lager at the ballpark are numbered. As the craft beer revolution has gained more traction with the public we have seen more ballparks add craft options to their beer selection; check out this list, complied by thefullpint.com, of the craft beer offerings from ballparks across the country.
Beer for the LA Fans
Southern California baseball fans have two preeminent teams to root for, and the beer flowing in Chavez Ravine and The BIg A has been getting better in recent years. This year the Angels have expanded the options from Fullerton brewery Bootleggers, as well as adding Hangar 24’s Orange Wheat. Dodger Stadium still has lots of room for improvement, but in recent years some Sam Adams varieties have been available, as well as Firestone Walker’s Double Barrel Ale. More prevalent, especially on the loge-and-above levels, have been the “faux-craft” options from the big boys like Blue Moon (by Miller/Coors) and Shocktop Orange Wheat (by AB-InBev), and while many call these pretenders they still beat a Bud Light in our book. Now that the new owners of the Dodgers franchise are taking control of the team and the stadium this year let’s hope that more local craft options will be available soon.
Even the hardcore baseball and beer fans can’t go to all the games though. And the next best thing to a cup of beer in the stands of Dodger Stadium has got to be a nice glass of beer when sitting down to listen to Vin Sculy call a game from the comfort of your couch! For the most authentic ballpark experience you can grab a can (preferably a tallboy) of Coors or Bud and dump it into an oversized plastic cup, but why watch good baseball with bad beer when there are so many excellent craft alternatives? Here are our picks for some of the best beers to drink when you’re watching the game at home.
If you’re looking to replicate the classic ballpark experience of an American light lager with your game then try one of these craft alternatives:
- Avery Brewing Joe’s American Pilsner: A take on the American Pilsner that is familiar and drinkable but still packs a lot of flavor. It also comes in cans so you can use your favorite team’s can-sleeve.
- Victory Prima Pils: A pilsner for hop-heads, this lager is light and refreshing and has more hop flavor than many IPAs. Plus, it is brewed in Philly, one of the biggest baseball towns around.
- Hangar 24 Helles Lager: This beer is currently only available on-tap, but the brewery’s new canning line should be up and running by the All Star break, and we think it is going to make a great refreshing beer for those dog days and the pennant races!
If you just want to have a blast watching the game while drinking your fill of delicious beer, and you still want to be able to stand during the 7th inning stretch then grab a few of these session-friendly brews:
- Golden Road Brewing Hefeweizen and Point the Way IPA: These are both local LA options come in cans and clock in at less that 6%abv. If you are close by you can head to the brewery’s attached pub to watch the game a get a pitcher (or growler fills) of either session-worthy ale.
- Eagle Rock Brewing Solidary: This dark English mild is another local LA brew that you can happily drink into extra innings thanks to its sub-4%abv. Plus, if you hit their taproom before the game you can fill a growler with it (we suggest the larger two-liter growler as it goes fast.)
- Stone Brewing Levitation: This amber ale is big on hop flavor and well balanced, but it doesn’t break the 4.5%abv barrier. Available in 6-packs from a good bottle shop we think this is a great southern California beer to enjoy with the game. Levitation is a great “gate-way” to the more hop-forward beers; if you bring a six-pack of this to your buddies to watch the game you just might make come craft-beer converts!
There are the heavy hitters that are just what you need when your team pulls out a big W with a dramatic walk-off, and you want to celebrate with something special:
- Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard: Hey, you won, but no real surprise since your team is clearly the best. Now all that’s left is the gloating.
- Samuel Adams Infinium: You might want to save this $20/bottle “champagne-like” beer for a division clinching win, but it does have a cork for that authentic feel.
- Freemont Brewing Homefront IPA: This rare IPA is actually aged with Louisville Slugger bats! If you can find some it might be just the thing to get a 9th inning rally started.
Writing for the New York Times, Ken Belson makes the good point that since most baseball games are played at night these days he finds the darker, more robust, brews make for a better pairing with the game. And really, beer is beer, and it all goes great with America’s pastime! At Beer of Tomorrow we say, “root for who you want, and drink what you like”.
What is your favorite beer when you’re watching the game? Do you just have whatever is on-hand, or do you buy beer specifically for game days?