It was only a matter of time before craft beer cracked the American Pastime’s starting lineup.
The Class-A Kane County Cougars, located about an hour west of Chicago, are taking craft beer at the ballpark to a new level with the debut of its own branded beer. Two Brothers Brewing, Warrenville, IL, (their beers are routinely featured on our tours) specially crafted the brew for the Cougars to sell on tap at Fifth Third Ballpark this season. The Midwest League club describes the beer as “a light and hoppy pale ale, golden in color with a nutty, caramel malt flavor.” Picture that frothy, cold brew in your hand as the sun sets over the Midwestern prairie! A final personal touch left the naming of the beer up to a fan vote; Cougar Country selected “Raging Cougar Ale” in favor of “Home Run Ale” and “Grand Slam Ale.” Not to be outdone, the Triple-A Durham Bulls will introduce the Bull Durham Beer Co. this spring. It will become one of only a handful of sports venues to brew beer on site, and this will be the first at any Minor League baseball stadium. Seeing as how baseball has always been a copycat business, I expect we’ll see more locally crafted and branded beers in store for fans in the coming seasons.
CRAFT BEER IN THE BIG LEAGUES
US Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago, home to the White Sox, has long been recognized for its outstanding ballpark food options; craft beer fans won’t be disappointed, either. Founders Porter is one of the Cell’s new additions joining a lineup including Revolution’s Anti-Hero IPA, Great Lakes’ Elliot Ness, and Bells’ Oberon. Cider fans can count on cans of Crispin and Smith & Forge.
Wrigley Field offers several Goose Island beers, but staying true to form, the best craft brew options for Cubs fans are found at its Triple-A affiliate in Iowa.
Milwaukee’s Miller Park brings more variety with New Glarus Spotted Cow, Milwaukee Brewing Co. O-Gii Imperial Wheat, Lakefront Brewery Riverwest Stein, and Tallgrass 8-bit.
Tigers Stadium in Detroit is considered one of the Major’s best ballparks for craft beer, offering a solid variety of Michigan craft brews on tap.
Newly renovated Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, will continue its partnership with the first craft brewery in the state of Ohio: Great Lakes Brewing (1988).
Several of Great Lakes’ award-winning beers will be available on tap, including its baseball-themed Rally Drum Red Ale. And better still, sink your teeth into the Brewer’s Barely pretzels made from spent brewer’s grain, and the Dortmunder Gold bratwurst, served with onions, peppers, and topped with the famous Bertman Ballpark Mustard.
The Cincinnati Reds are swinging for the bleachers at Great American Ballpark with the debut of the “Reds Brewery District Bar,” which features 60 taps and 23 different craft beers from all over the country. Sixty taps? Holy hops, Batman!
It will take an 85-foot bar to hold those 60 taps while offering the likes of Rhinegeist Truth American IPA, 50 West Wire to Wire Wheat, Listermann Leopold Belgium Blonde, and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, just to name a few.
Not surprisingly, you’ll find plenty of opinions about which ballparks serve the best craft beers, a likely topic of conversation leading up to the seventh-inning stretch. But even if you’re living in a baseball market with a bush league craft beer lineup, chances are your ballpark will be promoted with major league craft beer options soon.