Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Opening Day - but where's the beer?

Section 400

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.


  1. When Danny Meyer came in last year, he bounced the majority of the local flavor. It's shameful what has happened to the beer selection by association.

  2. FYI, they do sell Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on the 300 level. Maybe not what you were hoping for, but it's a big step up from MGD. Can't remember which stand exactly, but I bought one at the Red Sox exhibition game. Will look for it again when I'm there Wednesday.

  3. Thanks for that information! I was *hoping* that I had missed some choices. As it was, I was limited to a $8.25 cup of Pilsner Urquell.

  4. The best I could do was Boston Lager (for a mere 9 dollars!) Would love to see The Public around.

  5. I'm similarly disappointed, so I go to Justin's down the street or Belga Cafe on Barracks Row to load up pre-game. (Justin's block party Saturday was great . . . DC Brau and Port City.)

    During my pre-game reconnaissance on opening day, though, I did see a Dogfish Head tap in the upper deck on the first base side (a bit farther down than you seemed to be sitting.

  6. Thanks, Bill. Another ticket holder mentioned that to me, even though he didn't actually see the ONE tap.

  7. I've seen various brands of "good" beer throughout the park. This Sunday I frequented Basline Brews in the Lower level Concourse first base side for Flying dog Raging Bitch in the bottle $8.00.

  8. Pilsner Urquell was the first ever golden Pilsner made in the world. To be able to enjoy that at a Nats game is a treat. I see plenty of Peroni at the park as well. Also at the big centerfield bar they have Leinenkugal Summer Shandy. Beer with lemonade flavor. Perfect for baseball. Beer selection is just fine at Nats Park!!!

  9. Anonymous: Good points but non gustibus disputandum-- one may quibble with my prejudices, but I clearly defined my parameters for 'good' beer as, in order: local, craft, American. The ballpark fails miserably on the 1st, is a C- at best on the 2nd and 3rd.

    Not being jingoistic here, but I find it mildly bizarre to emphasize foreign beers and foreign companies at a baseball game, so often referred to as the American pastime. That the Lerners and their concessionary partners couldn't have been bothered to reach out to local business I find disquieting. You, of course, can (and did) diasagree.

    As to PU: its history as the original golden lager is under somewhat of a cloud these days. See here. And following its purchase by SAB/Miller, it's difficult to claim that its quality and flavor remain close to its Urquell (original) or even pre-1990s condition.

    That being said, the beer choices at the stand closest to my seat were Lite beers of various stripes and PU. I chose the latter, and I enjoyed it.

    Yet still: where was the local pride?

  10. Nats Park is a baseball stadium and not a bar. You can get many great local beers at many pubs in the district. The beers that are available at the park are beers that appeal to the mass consumers and that is what sells. It is not cheap to own a baseball team and they have a right to sell products that will generate revenue. You are going to sell a lot more of a domestic light beer at a baseball game than a IPA or Porter. I think the selection is fine and the food options are great as well.

    1. Interestingly, the rest of the baseball world does NOT seem to agree with this assessment in the least. That is why parks around the league are significantly increasing their craft beer selections.

      Consumer consumption at a ballpark will be no different than that elsewhere. And we have seen time and time again that domestic beer sales are flat to down, while craft beer sales are seeing massive increases.

      I don't think anyone is suggesting that the team get rid of all the domestic mass produced taps in the stadium. Further, the craft beer fans among us can accept that the vendors walking around the stadium will not be selling craft.

      Given the massive number of tap handles around the stadium (in the hundreds), would having a slightly higher number dedicated to craft** really be all that bad?

      **Sorry, I do NOT classify PU, peroni or Leininkugal as craft.

  11. Walked in with two Stellas, much better than spending ballpark prices.

  12. Tom, your assessment is fair and anyone who would defend the current state of beer at Nats Park clearly has no love for beer. Of course, it is the right of the Nats owners and their vendors to carry products they think will sell, but but other clubs and ballparks seems to do just fine with craft beer. No one, including you or I, are saying "get rid of the BMCs of the world to the exclusion of craft beer, but I think they'd be surprised how well they'd sell if they gave hem a chance. I fear the reason, however, is that they have given a particular couple of distributors a monopoly on what is sold at Nats Park. I'm guessing Shake Shack would have a better selection of beers at their outlet if they were allowed, judging by the selection at their Conn. Ave. shop.

  13. At Nats Park last night I was sitting next to a young lady who works in the front office, and the topic turned to beer. I mentioned to her something I saw in Cleveland that I liked--a tap in an easily accessible center field bar that rotated its beer according to the visiting team. (When I was there in 2010 they had a Heavy Seas product to represent Washington.) She liked this idea and planned to raise it with management--I told her I'd help her out with a list of beers from each MLB city/state. I'll keep you informed if I hear anything.

    1. They have their taste of the majors food stand - it would only seem natural that they offer a rotating beer there at that stand. But they need to understand this doesn't mean when the Cardinals come offer Bud or when the Rockies come offer Coors Light!!!

  14. Sounds promising, Bill. Keep us informed.

  15. Camden Yards --the Orioles' ballpark, only 45 miles north of Nationals Park-- is serving cask-conditioned ale at every Friday home game. It is NOT a money-losing concession!

  16. If Nats Park is anything like Oriole Park, craft breweries (all breweries) must pony up at least $20k to play. I know of one particular regional craft brewery who did just that this season at Camden Yards. This was confirmed via the Orioles. Don't believe "the Orioles approached ____ brewery to carry their beer this season, along with firkin Fridays" B.S. which you may have previously read. It is the other way around.


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