Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nats strike out, but hometown beer a hit.

Washington D.C.'s baseball team, the Nationals, may be striking out, but at least, now, the beer at their ballpark is a hit. Their hometown beer!

Nats by water

Since the team's move to the District in 2005, and since the opening of Nationals Park, three years later, much of the beer the team has offered to its fans has been macro international-style lager. An exception has been at the Red Porch Lounge in left centerfield, where a few 'craft' beers (such as regionals Heavy Seas, Flying Dog, and Dogfish Head) have been made available on draft.

But now, FINALLY, after nine years of fan grumbling (including from this fan), the Nationals are pouring beers that have been brewed within only a few miles of the park.

District Drafts at Nats Park (01)

Behind the Nationals bullpen (keeping the pitchers hydrated?), along the concourse in section 139, at a concession stand called District Drafts, a fan can now find beers from four Washington, D.C. metropolitan area breweries, on draft.

Nationals Park: good beer chart

Here's how put it:
Behind only complaints about the up-and-down performance of the home team, perhaps no fan concern at Nationals Park is as great as the one about the total lack of locally produced beers.

Well, that deficit ends Saturday [20 July 2013]. With the Nationals heading into the second half of their season, fans will be able to quench the sweltering summer weather with brews by 3 Stars Brewing and DC Brau [of Washington, D.C.], Port City Brewing [of Alexandria, Virginia], and Mad Fox Brewing [of Falls Church, Virginia].

The kiosk went 'live' yesterday evening, and Twitter and Facebook went loud with the news. YFGF was not there, but Gregg Wiggins —past photographer for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and current baseball bum— was. He reported long queues, longer than those at the mainstream light lager stands, but with fast, efficient, service. The 14-ounce pours cost $9.00, a 'bargain' versus the $10.00 cost at the Red Porch. A Twitter follower reported: "It was great to see, but some kinks need to be worked out. Kegs were 'cooled' by bags of ice. By 6th inning, all but one were warm, foamy."

UPDATE: On Day 2, the beer from 3 Stars was pouring. And only five days later, a second "District Drafts" kiosk was added behind Section 309, per the Nationals Twitter feed.

UPDATE: As of 10 August, the ballpark continues to serve the beer without refrigeration.

District Drafts at Nats Park (02)

Back to baseball:

The Washington Nationals continue to waste good pitching with woeful situational hitting. After Saturday evening's extra-innings loss to the LA Dodgers, the team fell to third in the National League East, 6 1/2 games out of first, in a division they captured last year.

But ... if the Nationals ballpark management was observing the District Drafts kiosk (or counting its receipts), they would have observed success. It's only one concession stand, but it's a start, and it's already a hit.

Now if only the Nats' bats would hit.

  • A Twitter follower reported: "It was great to see, but some kinks need to be worked out. Kegs were 'cooled' by bags of ice. By 6th inning, all but one were warm, foamy."
  • In the DCist piece, DC Brau co-founder Brandon Skall graciously gave a lot of the credit to Bill Butcher, founder of Port City Brewing, who, he said, "did a lot of lobbying" with the Nationals to get beers made in [and near] D.C.
  • For a more complete map to beer choices, see The Nationals Park Beer Guide from The Nationals Review (5 June 2013).
  • Photos of the District Draft stand are courtesy Gregg Wiggins. He passed along this memory: "While Old Heurich beer was contract brewed elsewhere, Old Heurich did have a dedicated bar at RFK stadium during the Nats' first season in 2005, pouring its beers and decorated with old photos of the original Heurich brewery, company baseball team, and similar. I remember how proud of it Gary Heurich was on that first opening night against the Diamondbacks as he showed me the facility and bought me a beer." [The Christian Heurich Brewing Company closed in Washington, D.C., in 1956. It wouldn't be until 2011, that another production-only brewery (i.e., non-brewpub) would operate in the city: DC Brau.]
  • UPDATE 2013.10.10: Local beer now on tap at the Verizon Center, Section 114.


  1. I'd really like to know how much these breweries are making off those inflated prices.

    I was told, off the record by a local brewery's owner, that "we're not really worried about getting into (a local sports stadium), because the way those guys operate, you practically give them the beer for free, and write it off as a promotion. I'm in business to SELL beer, not give it away and have someone else make the money!"

    1. It depends upon the venue and the sport. Selling at NFL games is iffy, because you're only there for 8 games. Basketball, soccer, and baseball involve many more opportunities.

      When I was at Oxford Brewing in the early/mid 90s, we did not lose money at the Os, and, in fact, looked at it as advertising that we didn't pay for. On the other hand, later, when I was a territory manager for a different brewery, the manager for the concessionaire at a certain ballpark said he would speak to me only if I promised a million dollars of promotional material. Guess what I said? Several years later, that company no longer handles concessions at that ballpark, and craft beer is sold there.

      And, by the way, how many festivals ask breweries for discounted beer (or ask to be paid for the privilege of having beer there) and make money off of the breweries? Several! And some big names.

    2. Oh, yes, I've heard several brewery owners balk at the idea of entering festivals like that, no matter how good the promotional value of whatever "representation" or "medals" may be, for exactly the same reason: "I'm in business to SELL beer, not as charity for beer geeks!" And the worst part is, some of those festivals are the ones that sell out in mere minutes....


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