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Photography credit to: Huy Mach for the St. Louis Dispatch

1.27.17

The Enduring Joy of the Ballpark Budweiser

Why one sports writer sticks with Budweiser, even as stadiums serve up craft beer.

Written by Mike Vorkunov

Photography by Huy Mach for the St. Louis Dispatch

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The last time I sat through a baseball game in person, in a hard plastic seat in the upper deck of Citi Field on a warm and drizzly night, I bought a Goose Island IPA and nursed it for a few innings. The scene was hardly the stuff of Americana. The air was too humid. The baseball too bland. And the beer too brusque.

It had been a while since I had sat down, unplugged, and really watched a baseball game. Probably more than two years. Oh sure, I’ve watched plenty of baseball. I was the Mets beat writer for The Star-Ledger for the 2014 and 2015 season. And it’s not that I didn’t want a beer — I had consumed at least a few of those in that time too — but it didn’t really seem I had chosen the right one for the job. It’s not that an IPA was too heavy or overbearing. For some hard-to-describe reason, it just didn’t feel right.

Now a craft beer fan, getting back into a stadium again reintroduced me to this catch-22. When you’re at home, watching your team, you can drink what you want. But if you’re at the park or watching from a bar, your options are limited. You can’t have your game and drink it too. The “craft beer” options at Yankee Stadium are a laundry list of hop-soaked goliaths trying their best to pass as microbrews. But they hide behind a thin veil. The Rockies play at Coors Field. The Brewers at Miller Field. If Natty Light sponsored a stadium, it would house one of the 30 MLB teams.

Trying to make the best of the beer at a baseball game is a fool’s errand. The crafty options costs too much and most of the time they aren’t that good — unless you’re lucky enough to live in San Diego, then carry on. So instead of trying to take the best of what InBev will sell you, maybe the best way to watch baseball is by doubling down on crappy beer. Just give in to your best, worst urge.

Baseball has a glacial pace and conversational tone. You’re going to be there a while, from BP to the 9th inning, and you might need to drink a few. Luckily bad beers are pretty good for this purpose. But it’s about picking the right one.

There are the usual suspects and corresponding, overheard opinions: Bud Light, even for this endeavor, is too harsh; Miller Lite, if you like to choose your beers based on commercials, is the better shot; personally, I’d opt for High Life over Lite– it is the champagne of baseball beers; and PBR hits the spot too, if I’m looking to save a buck or two.

The best baseball beer, however, just might be Budweiser. Nothing represents the sport more. At one point, Budweiser really was the king of beers. It had market share and its fair share of fans with love for the suds. In an environment where beer was still essentially an oligarchy, Budweiser won out. Now it wraps itself in the flag to stave off irrelevance and declining market share. Sound familiar?

Baseball, too, was once dominant. It was America’s pastime. Its stars shone above all others and its ratings were unmatched. But its supremacy is from a time far away. There are too many contenders for your sporting attention now, too many options make for too many reasons baseball isn’t king anymore. But a Budweiser and a calm night at the park can still feel right. A throwback to less fussy times, when we all had three hours to kill in a plastic seat.