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Five Steps To Making Nats Park A Better Beer Park (GUEST POST)

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.)

D.C. sports fan and digital media guy that's been doing this since 2004. Once threw a football further than Chris Cooley.



  1. Unsilent Majority

    July 13, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Well done, Aaron. Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Tim of the Tribe

    July 13, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    As far as local beers, I would also extend into Virginia and add Starr Hill Brewery to the list. Is it possible to have beer homerism?

  3. TD

    July 13, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Great post, glad to see Port City love!

  4. Chris Mottram

    July 13, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Starr Hill would be a fine addition. Wouldn’t mind being able to get an Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, either.

  5. ILM

    July 13, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    I’m all for more craft beer, but the “sluggish” service should be the first thing adressed at Nats Park. Getting any kind of beer is an absolute shitshow in there

  6. arty

    July 13, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Love the idea of cask ale Fridays. Similar to that, couldn’t they do something where one day a week they sell DC Brau cans in the stands? That would be pretty awesome.

  7. Chris Mottram

    July 13, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    I’d imagine the limited available of craft beer throughout the park is a result of most people not actually wanting craft beer at the game. I doubt it would be financially beneficial for vendors to serve cans of Brau — for example — over Bud Light. Or to replace one of their shit-beer taps with something craft.

  8. Jamie Mottram

    July 13, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    It’s funny, I don’t care about the quality of beer at Redskins games, probably b/c by the time I’m drinking them it’s not for taste. But it does matter to me at Nats, Caps and Wiz games. In lieu of craft, though, cold will do.

  9. Rudi

    July 13, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    Additionally: get some of the more “mainstreamed” craft beers sold by the vendors walking the stands. Often, the last thing I want is a Bud/Miller/Coors crap beer, and having the occasional Heineken or Stella Artois doesn’t swing it. How about some Flying Dog, Starr Hill, Sierra Nevada, Bell’s – or, if they can swing it, DC Brau – coming from the roaming vendors?

    Seriously: it pains me to see people pay good money for crappy light beer.

  10. DocJ

    July 15, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    Add Williamsburg Alewerks to the Va beer list, they make a few very fine beers. Flying Dog is ok, not a favorite of mine. Since Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Oskar are all expanding to NC, those would be good candidates to be able to supply the amount needed to be a regular tap in several locations, not to mention a cold can of Dales Pale Ale or Ranger IPA is great way to cool off at an afternoon game. Seriously though, can anywhere else compare to the amount of craft beers coming out of NC right now. Best way to put it, not a beer snob but more of a beer nerd, and having something a little different adds to the experience, especially if local and distinct to the region.

  11. Danny

    July 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    I wish the foggy bottom brews from olde heurich were still around. That would be perfection.

  12. Nationelle

    July 16, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Definitely need to show off local breweries. Might make up a LITTLE for losing Gifford’s and Five Guys. Port City and DC Brau make some great porters. Perhaps we could also get beers from Sweetwater and Mad Fox.

  13. Hondo Howard

    July 17, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Don’t forget, “Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one!”
    And you’d need about 37 to forget that flavor.

  14. Fines

    July 25, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Regarding you mention of having local beer at Nationals games: I spoke with the people at Port City Brewing in Alexandria about this because there is nothing but junk on tap at the Park. They are interested in getting into the stadium and have also gotten together with other local breweries to discuss efforts to get into the stdaium but there is already a multi year contract in affect for the rights to the beer taps by I think In-Bev (formerly A-Busch). So, no good local beer on tap any time soon.

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