Wikipedia tells me that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is about a guy whose gal insists he take her to a game if he’s going to ask her out on a date. I would have guessed it was invented for the kids attending baseball games, if for no other reason than that it doesn’t mention beer.
Baseball and beer have been closely linked since the 1880s, and when brewery owner and president of the United States Brewers’ Association Jacob Ruppert bought the New York Yankees in 1915, that was it — the two were a permanent pairing. Interestingly, Ruppert had apparently considered buying the Chicago Cubs some years prior, but passed. It’s fun to imagine how those two franchises’ trajectories might have changed if the suds money had flowed to the North Side instead of the Bronx.
We haven’t quite reached baseball season — we’re only starting the college basketball postseason — but even with the snow, warm weather is on my mind. Teams have been at spring training for about a month, and last week, the Milwaukee Brewers announced a major lineup change. Not to their player roster, but to their tap lines.
If baseball stadium tap lists aren’t something you regularly think about, you might be of the opinion that the Brewers, of all teams, would have a lot of beer to drink at its stadium. There’s a lot of beer, sure, but before this season, it’s been a lot of cheap macro beer. There have been, to Miller Park’s credit, more craft options than those that Eater incompletely listed in its April 2015 MLB stadium craft beer roundup, and no one’s saying the ballpark has to be the best beer bar in town.
But when you look at the new list compared to even the more accurate accounting of beer options from two springs ago, you see the difference. Back then: MKE Brewing, one Point beer, Spotted Cow in bottles, and some Lakefront. Now: Karben4, Good City, Central Waters, Tyranena, MobCraft, O’so, One Barrel, Hinterland. The southern tier of the state will be well represented there in 2017.
It’s worth comparing what Miller Park is going to be pouring with other beer-named ballparks. There are two: Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Coors Field in Denver.
I haven’t been to Coors Field yet, though I hope to this year. The beer at Coors Field has been good for some time, and still getting more and more diverse. Like Miller Park, it isn’t just the beers of its namesake brewery. But unlike Miller Park — indeed, unlike any other sports stadium anywhere — Coors Field houses a very successful brewery. It’s the Sandlot, a more or less autonomous unit of MillerCoors. Technically, it’s the Blue Moon Brewing Company, because this is where Blue Moon came from. It has won numerous medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, on the other hand, isn’t likely to win any medals, not from me, anyway. My one trip there, a couple summers ago, was a bit of a disappointment. The beers were largely Anheuser Busch, with one measly rotating tap each for Urban Chestnut and Schlafly. The food wasn’t much to speak of, either. The Cardinals fans were having a great time, though, so there’s that.
The ballpark that got me into the subject of good beer at baseball games is Target Field in Minneapolis. I first went in 2012, when Surly introduced Bandwagon as a stadium exclusive to celebrate the brewery’s first year with a dedicated Target Field cart. The beer isn’t as diverse as what Miller Park is planning, but it’s still very good. Indeed, Bauhaus, and Fulton with its brewery and taproom just steps outside Target Field, are all available in the stands.
Baseball is a sport that inspires a weird devotion in many of its fans. The concept of the stadium tour, visiting as many across the country as a person can, is not unique to a handful of zealots. I suppose I have to include myself in that number, though my desire to check off my list is driven by how good the beer is at a given ballpark. Judging by the new list, I’ll be going back to Miller Park this season, just as soon as this snow melts.
I also found a pretty detailed academic paper on the history of baseball and beer online, if you want to read more about it. And no discussion of baseball and beer would be complete — certainly not in the friendly confines of the Two-Cent Pint – without the story of the Ten Cent Beer Night riot.