Beer & Baseball

Written by Tony Libera

“Beer needs baseball, and baseball needs beer,” New York Times best-seller Peter Richmond once declared. “It has always been thus.” Yet with the growth of the national palette, it would seem that baseball fans in the twenty-first century need not just any beer, but a beer that appeals to the tastes of the developed drinker, the ale aficionado, the craft connoisseur. Budweiser is still king in Major League Baseball, but local breweries are challenging that title, as more and more concessionaires recognize the widespread desire for high-end craft beers.

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“You are definitely seeing more and more local and craft beers being served at ballparks around the country,” said Carey Matthews, marketing coordinator for Summit Brewing Company. “It really makes sense when you think about how much baseball is a community event and the local pride it creates.”
Target Field perhaps best exemplifies this shifting mentality, offering one of the widest beverage selections of any professional baseball stadium. Such diversity owes largely to an outspoken fanbase and trending sales, which concessionaire Delaware North took into account as Target Field neared completion in 2010.

“When it came time to determine what direction we were going to go, specifically in the beer category, we overlapped some of our philosophies with the food, bringing in more local items—regional items that are native or iconic to Minnesota, the Twin Cities, and Twins territory,” said Peter Spike, General Manager of Delaware North Company Sportservice at Target Field. “We saw about five percent of the market at that point in time was buying craft beers, and most of them were local; that has expanded to ten, and I would expect that number to reach closer to 15 percent.”

In the beginning, Delaware North met with two beloved Minnesota companies: Summit and Schell’s, the latter offering their Grain Belt brand, as well. Partnership was a no-brainer for both the ballpark and the breweries.

“We had a great presence at the Metrodome when the Twins played there,” said Matthews, “so as soon as the new ballpark was underway, [Summit] reached out to be involved. Minnesota baseball has to have Minnesota beer.”

Delaware North’s strategy was to offer local crafts under the banner of Twins Brews, three locations (sections 116, 125, and 322) that strictly offer local beers.

“We took an approach that we weren’t going to do a Beers of the World, which had been used, and quite honestly is old,” Spike said. “So instead of Beers of the World we came up with beers of Twins territory, and that allowed us to give the fans a specific place to go if they were looking for that Minnesota-brewed option.”

As time went on and as craft beer sales continued upward, Delaware North looked to expand their options, adding Stillwater’s Lift Bridge and most recently Fulton, brewed mere blocks from Target Field, and Surly, the fastest growing brewery in the United States. Social media played a significant role in these partnerships, as avid fandom put the two breweries on Delaware North’s radar. Surly had been in talks with the company as early as 2009, but ran into production issues with their draft beer, according to Spike. When Delaware North approached Surly again in 2012, the brewery pitched the Bandwagon IPA, a beer that would only be available at Target Field.

“Any time we can have an exclusive item, whether we do it in food or beverage, or we do it in the retail side of the business, that generates interest by the fans,” Spike said. “They’ll take that opportunity when they’re here at the ballpark to buy it.”

Since the IPA’s release, Spike estimates Target Field has sold 90 Bandwagons for every 100 portable beers. While this number is sure to go down with time, fans have made it clear that there is a substantial demand for craft beers, one that Delaware North and its local brewing partners are more than willing to supply.

“We’ve seen a very good reaction,” Spike said, “and as we continue to grow and work with our local partners and brands, we can hopefully reinforce the message that we are there to satisfy as many people’s wants and needs as possible.”

What this all boils down to—the objective data, the overwhelming fan response, Delaware North’s sales—is a maturation of the beer drinker and a growing proclivity toward craft beer in particular. The national pastime has been inextricably linked to alcohol since its early years, and while that has not changed, it is apparent that patrons’ tastes have. Baseball, so often praised for its social aspects, for the atmosphere of its stadiums, can only benefit from the expansion of its craft beer selections.

Perhaps Peter Spike said it best: “Beer and baseball go hand in hand. If you can enjoy your favorite beer at the ballpark, it makes the game that much better.”

Target Field Craft Beers

Minnesota Brews Portables (Bottled) – Sections 126 and 320
• Summit EPA
• Summit Seasonal
• Grain Belt Premium
• Grain Belt Nordeast
• Schell’s
• Finnegan’s Irish Amber
• Leinenkugel’s
• Leinenkugel’s Seasonal
• Lift Bridge

Surly Draft Cart
• Surly Furious
• Surly Bandwagon IPA

Twins Brews – Sections 116, 125, 322
• Summit EPA
• Summit Seasonal
• Finnegan’s Irish Amber
• Grain Belt Premium
• Grain Belt Nordeast
• Schell’s Dark
• Schell’s Seasonal
• Leinenkugel’s
• Leinenkugel’s Seasonal
• Lift Bridge
• Surly Furious
• Surly Bandwagon

Vended
• Grain Belt Premium
• Grain Belt Nordeast

Legends Club – 573 Bar
• Finnegan’s Irish Amber
• Summit EPA
• Surly Bandwagon IPA
• Grain Belt Nordeast

Town Ball Tavern
• Fulton
• Summit EPA
• Grain Belt Premium
• Grain Belt Nordeast

All Restaurants
• Summit EPA
• Grain Belt Premium
• Grain Belt Nordeast

 

Comments

  1. bfmartucci says

    This is quite a list. We’re on the leading edge of a trend here — ballparks in KC, Seattle and even Miller Town itself are following suit.

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