Posted by Kurt Smith on Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Ballpark beer is so ridiculously priced nowadays that I’ve been staying sober at the game. It’s just not worth it to me; I’ll be a designated driver and get my free soda or have a few at a nearby tavern.
I suppose the plus of this is fewer inebriated people at the game; just Google “Ten Cent Beer Night” to learn what can happen when 50,000 sports fans can afford unlimited alcohol. And apparently some fans will still pay $9 for a Coors Light; far be it for me to stop them.
Many teams have added a detailed menu of local favorite craft brews these days—at nearly any ballpark now you can sample something made by a small brewery from the area. This is a positive development…it’s one more way baseball allows you to experience a city without leaving the ballpark.
But in many places, you also have the option of that longtime, local, iconic, cheap, bad-tasting brew. And it’s just as much a flavor of the city as the craft brews…it may be baseball’s way of saying life isn’t all sweetness and light.
I can’t always say which is the low end icon in every ballpark, but here are three of my favorites. You don’t need to know how they taste. Just think metal:
1) Old Style, Wrigley Field, Chicago. Chicagoans love Old Style, especially in the sunny bleachers at Wrigley. It has forever been a part of Cubs games, and you can still find the logos in the ballpark. But Budweiser has taken over much of the branding, and you now have to leave your seat to get a taste of Chicago—the vendors no longer sell Old Style in the seating area.
This change was not received warmly by some Cubs fans, who seem to be more aware than Cubs management that the hated rival Cardinals play in Busch Stadium and were once owned by August Busch. It’s as if the Green Monster was renamed the Steinbrenner Monster.
2) Iron City, PNC Park, Pittsburgh. In my first trip to see the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium, I flagged down a vendor selling Iron City and asked him if it was good beer. He gave me a look that said I would be foolish to try it, and this is someone making money from the sale.
Iron City is not just a staple of PNC Park, it’s also the beer of choice for visitors of Primanti Bros. the celebrated sandwich with fries and slaw included (there is a Primanti Bros. in PNC Park as well). Primanti Bros.’ original market was visiting truckers; Pittsburgh still likes that blue collar feel.
3) National Bohemian, Camden Yards, Baltimore. It was a pretty big deal when Natty Boh and their one-eyed mascot returned to Orioles games; the owner of the brew was also the Orioles’ owner when the team’s fortunes were consistently good.
Across the street from the Yard at Sliders, though, you can grab a few cheap Natty Bohs before the game—and while I hate to discourage Natty Boh sales inside the ballpark, it’s a great way to get a cheap and not-so-tasty buzz on before cheering on the Birds. A stop at Sliders is a must for me at the Yard these days.
Those are three that come to mind; I’m guessing each city has a beer that sets the standard for low quality that not even the domestics can match.
You can usually try one of these in a tavern nearby much more cheaply than inside…they’re even less worthy of the ballpark price tag. But they're there inside the ballpark, so someone's keeping them around.