We said Nats Park is a good place for craft beer, even if that’s not really the case. Here to lay out a plan for improvement is the former Editor-in-Chief of DCist, Aaron Morrissey. Sadly, it doesn’t include bull riding.
Nationals Park is not one of the best craft beer parks in Major League Baseball. The good news? It’s not that far from being one.
The stadium certainly has some things going for it, beer-wise. Dogfish, Flying Dog and Heavy Seas all make a fine brew, and any baseball stadium that offers Cooperstown-brewed Ommegang is doing right by their customers. But merely boasting a somewhat large-ish list of beers does not a great beer stadium make — after all, if being the best was merely a matter of available resources, Dan Snyder might be the most successful owner in the National Football League. (Pardon me while I wipe the bile from my keyboard.)
Fortunately for Nats fans, most of the problems that prevent Nats Park from providing an excellent beer experience are relatively easy to fix.
1. For starters, don’t make getting a beer so much of a pain in the ass. It’s sort of difficult to purchase a really good beer at Nats Park. Lines are long, stands hawking craft beer are awkwardly spaced along the corridors (if they are present at all), and by the time you find one and plunk down your hard-earned money, you’ve probably missed at least an inning of baseball. The entire craft beer-buying experience at the park could stand to be streamlined — putting in more taps in various places around the stadium would be a good start.
2. Expand out of centerfield. Chances are, if you want a craft beer at the home of the Nationals, you’re heading to the Red Porch or the Red Loft, where you’ll fight off hoards of standing-room crowds to embrace the sweetest tap nectar on hand. This is beyond frustrating. One imagines that most fans who have to go to a bar in order to drink good beer while watching a baseball game could probably do so without purchasing a ticket. And while the overworked Porch and Loft bar backs have my utmost sympathies, it would be more than kind to describe the service in both locations as anything but sluggish. It shouldn’t take 45 minutes to get a good beer at a baseball stadium, it just shouldn’t. Nationals Park would do themselves a huge favor by building out more small, craft-centric beer stands in various places around the stadium — the stands don’t need to be anything more than two taps (or two fridges) and a register.
3. Embrace local beer. In San Francisco, you can order an Anchor. In Milwaukee, you can order a New Glarus. In both Houston and Arlington, you can get a Shiner. At Citizens Bank Park, you can drink a Victory (or a Yards, or a Tröegs). So why is it that you can’t order a DC Brau or a Port City at Nationals Park? Of course, this isn’t totally the Nationals’ fault — sometimes, young breweries simply aren’t prepared to supply at a scale necessary to serve thousands of baseball fans for 81 nights over the span of six months. But still, one imagines that at least one local brewery, given the chance, would probably fall over themselves at the chance to supply a tap or two inside the stadium.
4. Add a couple more nationally distributed craft brewers. I know, I just said that a ballpark’s beer list isn’t the be-all, end-all. But it’s important, none the less — even if its bottles and cans, poured into plastic cups. I can get several different varieties of Lagunitas (available in four other MLB parks, including in Pittsburgh) at my corner beer store; why shouldn’t I be able to at Nats Park?
5. Take a cue from your neighbors. In Baltimore, they’re serving cask ale made by Flying Dog during Friday night home games. There’s really no reason that the Nationals couldn’t do the same, or at least something that would endear beer nerds to the atmosphere.
This becomes even more important for Nats Park as it faces increased competition. It’s long been the case that if you want to grab a good beer before the game, you’ll be trudging up to Barracks Row, or maybe over to Justin’s Cafe. Not for long.
Neighborhood Restaurant Group – the people behind 14th Street beer mecca ChurchKey – will soon be opening Bluejacket, a brewery but steps away from Nationals Park. The operation will feature both a brewpub-like tasting room and a 200-some-seat restaurant serving up barrel-aged goodness. If Nationals Park doesn’t up their game, and quick, most beer connoisseurs will likely plop down at a stool rather than pay admission for the privilege of consuming heinously overpriced American macrobrews.
All things considered, Nats Park is a solid place for beer-lovers to take in a game. (At least it’s not Chase Field.) But it could be so much better — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
(Image taken with love from Washingtonian.)