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The definitive ballpark craft beer ranking

Aug 8, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

Brewery District Reds

There have been a lot of articles about craft beer offerings at ballparks in the past couple of years. And a lot of efforts to rank the ballparks by beer selection. Beer is a pretty subjective topic, though, so a lot of that is hit and miss. I think this article at the Washington Post today, however, is the most definitive ranking/offering listing I’ve seen, and does a great job of contextualizing craft beer and its place in major league ballparks.

The rankings are based on (1) quality, as defined by Beer Advocate rankings; (2) locality, as in how much beer is from nearby; and (3) uniqueness of offerings. Then an overall raking is compiled.

The top ranked ballpark for craft beer: Safeco in Seattle. That’s not surprising based on what people have told me about the place. The article notes just how committed that park is to craft beer and how, next year, they’re going to offer suggested food pairings at each concession stand. Seattle is turning into a must-visit for me.

Last: Yankee Stadium. This is not at all surprising based on things we’ve seen there in the past and its generally poor approach to concessions in general.

The two parks I go to most — Comerica Park in Detroit and Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati — rank 6th and 2nd, respectively. Comerica has a fantastic area devoted to Michigan’s many excellent craft beers behind the right field foul pole. I make a beeline there each time I take a trip up there. It probably gets knocked down a bit due to the fact that craft beers are more or less confined to that part of the park while Miller/Coors products are everywhere else. As the article notes, Cincinnati made a big, big commitment to craft beer this year by installing a looooong bar on the third base line with tons and tons of both local and national craft taps of outrageously high quality. It was a total game-changer for a park that, until recently, was pretty meh as far as it goes. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable a trip to Cincy is for a ballgame knowing that treat is waiting for me.

Maybe the biggest takeaway from the article, however, is this passage:

Counting single-day offerings, the Cincinnati Reds’ selection of distinct beers went from 42 to more than 130 – the most in Major League Baseball, according to a Washington Post analysis. Craft sales increased even more dramatically, by 363 percent. The biggest-selling beer at the Brewery District is still Bud Light – not exactly a craft product – but stadium officials found that rather than taking away from existing beer sales, craft consumers were actually creating a new category.

There are a lot of laws around the country which put craft brewers at a disadvantage compared to large brewers or otherwise seek to stifle the growth of the craft industry. Many ballparks — especially those with big beer tie-ins in their name — are less-than-receptive to craft beer as well. I suppose on some level the rise of craft beer is a threat to the big brewers, but it’s not a direct threat and it’s not a zero sum game. One would hope that, in light of this, things would be a bit less tense out in the world of beer. But I suppose that’s asking too much.

(Thanks to Josh R. for the heads up)

  1. chinahand11 - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    Love it! Thanks for the heads up on my next pub … er … stadium crawl. (Is that right? Stadium crawl? Oh who cares.)

    • jfk69 - Aug 9, 2014 at 9:38 AM

      Mel Allen sets the record straight on beer.

  2. dondada10 - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    I’m shocked that Citi Field came in 10th. Then again, the West Coast is where most great beer comes from.

  3. kopy - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    I have a feeling this is mostly going to boil down into a pissing contest over which region of North America brews the best beer.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Only someone who lives in an inferior region would say such a thing!

      Get him!

  4. brucewaynewins - Aug 8, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    To anyone who’s been to Great American Ballpark over the last three seasons has seen this slowly take place and really pick up around the ALL Star break last season. The local craft beer industry has boomed and there is quite a few great local breweries to the Cincinnati area. To anyone coming to GABP for a game or for All Star festivities next year I highly suggest Rhinegeist (Cougar is my favorite of theirs). Most people will point you to Rhinegeist, Mad Tree, and Christian Morelein.

  5. roseann894 - Aug 8, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Tell me where the rankings are. I looked at the article and saw nothing but confusing graphics.

    • jwbiii - Aug 8, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      The arrows next the team names give you a drop down menu where you pick a team. Mouse over the dots next to the World Class, Very Good. . . Equine Urine scale and you get the name of the beer,the brewer, and the rating. The two names allow you to compare YSIII and Citi, the Cell and Wrigley, etc. It would be nice if they had listed the teams/stadiums in rank order.

      • roseann894 - Aug 9, 2014 at 2:02 AM

        Yes it would. I could drive to all the stadiums faster than mousing and dropping down as you suggest, and avoid carpal tunnel syndrome as well. I guess I will just stick with Old Style.

  6. asimonetti88 - Aug 8, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I’m sort of surprised that San Diego is ranked so low. The number of outstanding breweries in San Diego County is sort of astonishing. Then again, maybe they don’t have a lot of local beers at the stadium, I wouldn’t know as I’m usually not able to drink when I’m at Padres games.

    • jwbiii - Aug 8, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      San Diego gets hurt because many of the beers available there aren’t rated by Beer Advocate (the grey dots at the bottom of the ratings scale). I’ve never had Stone’s Go-To IPA, I’ve never heard of it, but I bet it’s really good.

      • dondada10 - Aug 8, 2014 at 6:28 PM

        I went to a restaurant in New York that had Stone’s on draft! Amazing.

      • chill1184 - Aug 8, 2014 at 6:53 PM

        Arrogant Bastard is delicious

      • jwbiii - Aug 8, 2014 at 6:58 PM

        I agree with you about Arrogant Bastard, but I think many of their brews are small runs, not distributed widely, and don’t get rated by Beer Advocate. I can get Arrogant Bastard and Ruination IPA in Homewood, IL, but I’ve never heard of some their other brews. But I bet they’re really good.

      • sdiegosteel - Aug 9, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        Go-To is for people who don’t quite like as much bitterness as is found in a normal IPA. It’s reaaallyy good.

      • sdiegosteel - Aug 9, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        For East Coast Stone fans, they are making a brewery on the East Coast sometime soon. They are deciding on its placement right now – – it’s down to Columbus, Richmond, and the Tidewater area of Virginia. That should make for it appearing as a draft more often. And if you ever come to San Diego, you have to go to the brewery (although it’s not in San Diego proper) – – it’s a beautiful place that is just a sprawling mecca of beer.

  7. shanabartels - Aug 8, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    This Sunday will be my first Yankee Stadium trip of 2014 (I watch every game but I can’t afford to go too often). I had been wondering if they added any remotely drinkable beer since last year, but they clearly haven’t, so I won’t be wasting any money on that. I would buy a beer if they offered anything decent or supported local breweries, but they don’t. That’s such a missed opportunity on their part.

    Pro tip: Trenton Thunder games have much better beer than Yankee Stadium for half the price. (Also that’s only 25 minutes from my house, so that helps.)

    • dondada10 - Aug 8, 2014 at 6:29 PM

      Best beer at Yankee Stadium is a Goosehead IPA. Take one step down and it’s Stella, and then it’s just piss water.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 8, 2014 at 8:03 PM

        They have an IPA at Yankee Stadium? Wasn’t the case when I went there back in ’09. Haven’t set foot inside that mausoleum since.

  8. CyclePower - Aug 8, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    Craig, you get on my nerves with your subject matter and approach, but this a great article. It changes the subject just a little. Although we can argue over IPA vs lager, everyone can appreciate beer and baseball stadiums. Since I’m an West Coast Style IPA fan, I have to vote for Petco Park

  9. wahoo21 - Aug 8, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    San Diego is the best kept secret in baseball when it comes to beer……Ballast Point Sculpin is dyno and if you ever get the chance to try the Ballast Point Dorado double IPA….you will understand what I’m talking about. A stones throw from Petco is the Karl Strauss and Mission Brewery and then you have Green Flash, Manzanita and the most awesome of all of them…..The Stone Brewery in Escondido.

    The only thing that would seal the deal is if they ever were able to get ” Pliney the Elder”….thats a better lineup than the Padres put on the field

  10. The Bronx Bombers - Aug 8, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Good for my Yanks
    less beer = less idiot fans in the stands

    • dcarroll73 - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      I am also a Yanks fan, but from my experience with both baseball and beer I would bet that the idiot fans who have a problem are exactly the ones too dumb to distinquish between actual beer and the alcoholic water the mass brewers sell. The answer is not failing to sell some good beers for appreciative fans. Maybe the answer is tightening security to throw out and then ban hooligans.

  11. canadatude - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    The results of the original study in the story here do not include Canada. In Ontario alone, 570 brands are brewed. Most of what passes for beer in the US is really watered down.
    Any American who wants a real beer should try the original Brador from Quebec. Knock you on your ass. Jays don’t have a huge variety (once owned by brewery), but great pubs just steps away.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 9, 2014 at 12:26 AM

      I know it’s not craft, i beg forgiveness, but I recall enjoying Molson XXX while in BC several years ago. Mild flavor and more alcohol in 1 bottle than a US 6 pack. Really enjoyed it. Yup.

  12. seattlenative57 - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    must-visit? you must be the last person in America who hasn’t already.

  13. sfm073 - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:44 PM

    Craft beer is probably the only hobby I have, I spend way too much time and money on it, but I don’t see the point in shelling out $15 plus dollars for a beer I can get for $3. Come to think of it I haven’t paid to go to any sporting event in over 3 years. Everything about it overpriced.

  14. jfk69 - Aug 9, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Rheingold and a Ballantine Blast. It has downhill for Yankee Stadium beers ever since.
    Just ask Mel Allen.

  15. yarguy - Aug 9, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    I am very confused over what counts as a “craft” beer. How does the nationally distributed Samual Adams count as a craft beer? It’s not even all brewed by the folks in Boston. As it web site notes it uses “contract” bewers for some portion of its product. Yes, it is better than Bud Lite (so is Coke – at least when you put rum in it you have a good drink), but how does that make it a craft beer compared to something like a beer brewed in a single location and available only in a local area. If I wanted to get a craft beer in, say, Seattle I wouldn’t go for a Sam Adams which I can get anywhere (or even Sierra Nevada – an even better national beer) but something from nearby. Maybe we need three categories: giant national breweries, not so giant national breweries and local breweries.

    • Steve A - Aug 9, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      Long story short, the Brewers Association, which is an organization of brewers dedicated to preserving and promoting the interests of microbreweries, creates the definition of “Craft Brewers” to include Sam Adams and Yuengling. Those are the two largest craft brewers. Without the ever-changing definition, neither would be considered craft brewers.

  16. entitymn - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Target Field and the Twins got a pretty good ranking compared to my experiences. Big Swill (Bud) has a major sponsorship deal at the park, so it is impossible to get non-swill beer and food at the same counter anywhere in the park. Choose between food, beer, or waiting in two lines for both. They have lost a *lot* of money from me because I refuse to wait in two lines, so I just buy beer and bring food with. The food options are good, but the beer options are top notch.

    • entitymn - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Also – went to a Vikings preseason game at TCF Bank on Friday, and it is clear that they hate us. Awful.

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