This was the view from the 'nosebleed' seats, in section 400, above and to the right of home plate, on 12 April 2012, during the home opener for the Washington Nationals, the Major League baseball team in Washington, D.C.
It was a partly sunny, partly cloudy, spring day, chilled by a brisk wind. Things warmed up in extra innings, when, in the 10th, the team won in dramatic fashion on a steal home after a wild pitch for a 3-2 walk-off victory over the Cincinnati Reds. With that, the Nationals achieved their best opening week record since moving to D.C.: 5 wins to 2 losses.
Formed in 1969 as the Montreal Expos, the team moved to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season and changed its name —ending a 33 year drought for baseball in the Nation's Capital. Nationals Park was opened three years later, in Southeast Washington, along the Anacostia River.
Where was the good beer?
From this good-beer fan's point of view, however, Opening Day was less than a victory. I could find NO good beer —no American-owned beer or local beer— on draft ANYWHERE in the ballpark except at the Red Porch lounge in centerfield. Even there, only one local brewery —Heavy Seas— was represented, with its Märzen on draft. [I missed this concession area* during my informal reconnoiter around the stadium. And, see the posted comments, below.]
The Red Porch was pouring Delaware-based Dogfish Head's Indian Brown on draft. The brewery's 60 Minute IPA had been on draft during early innings, but had sold out by the 6th. IPA, or India Pale Ale (a strong, hoppy ale, both aromatic and quenchingly dry) is arguably the most popular 'craft' beer style in the U.S. Yet, I could not find any other IPA on any concourse in the ballpark.
Where was the local pride?
Other than the Heavy Seas on draft at the Red Porch, I saw only a few stands with any local beer, and those were bottles from Flying Dog, another Maryland brewery. That was it for local breweries. To name but a few omissions, I saw no DC Brau or Chocolate City, production breweries in Washington, D.C., nor any Port City Brewing, a production brewery located a short boat ride across the Potomac River, from Alexandria, Virginia.
The fans who attend the games come from all three area jurisdictions (and a plurality are Virginians.) So, why not ONE concession stand —come on, now, just ONE stand— with an emphasis on local breweries (and other 'craft' breweries, and American-owned breweries)? Why shouldn't the team's owners, the Lerners, show local breweries their support? That's showing pride in local businesses. Or is it the local beer wholesaler who is limiting choice?
Yes, these local breweries are indeed small —Flying Dog and Heavy Seas, not so, at least by 'craft' beer standards —but allowances could be made for their limited production, such as a rotating combination of bottles, cans and draft from a collection of DC, Maryland, and Virginia breweries. It's not difficult; it's not asking much. It would require a bit of creative small-business reach-out. As for the bottom-line: such a concession stand would NOT be a money-losing proposition, but WOULD be a fan-enhancing experience.
The baseball season —161 games long— is still young, and many of the amenities at the park are excellent. So, it would only be fair to withhold judgment on Nationals Park's good-beer fitness, and hope for better local business sense from the Lerners and their concessionaire partners.
- Other photos(many) from Opening Day, by blogger JDLand.
- The Washington Post's Going Out Gurus published their choices for best food and drink in Nationals Park.
- How to get to Nationals Park, by the Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock.
- * I didn't see this concession area. From We Love DC: "Last season’s beer garden is getting an expansion, with two full sections of a brewhouse from Sam Adams, down the 3rd base line. Look behind sections 111 and 112 for a new set of tables, some drink rails and high def TVs."
- UPDATE. Camden Yards —home to the Baltimore Orioles, 45 miles to the north— not only offered more local beer choices, they offered cask ale during Friday home games. More: here.
- The slideshow was created using a freeware app: flickr slideshow.
- Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.