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Yankees at Center of Craft Beer Brew-haha

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COMMENTARY | The quality of beer at Yankee Stadium - home to the $8 Budweiser - has never exactly mirrored the quality of New York Yankees baseball. Whether their team was good or bad, Yankees fans were often treated to beer that was just plain mediocre. Think beer and Yankee Stadium, and you'll probably think about signage more than anything else - the Ballantine Ale sign that graced the outfield in the '50s and the Bud Lite billboard of the '80s.

Recently, beer snobs and baseball fans united online to point out that the Yankees had gone too far when it came to mixing beer and baseball. Under a "Craft Beer Destination" sign, the team was serving beers brewed by MillerCoors.

It started on opening day, when writer Amanda Rykoff posted a photo of the sign on Twitter. That sparked reaction from the head of Stone Brewing (More on them later), Deadspin and NBC Sports' HardballTalk.

Rykoff didn't take the Yankees task for their selection of beers, which included Batch 19, Blue Moon, and Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, but she did conclude that, "Once again, the Yankees have figured out yet another way to charge a superior price for an inferior product."

"I confess that on a hot summer day, I will enjoy a Summer Shandy on occasion, and Blue Moon is certainly a popular beer," she wrote. "But to call them 'craft beers' is nonsense and insulting."

MillerCoors doesn't exactly meet the traditional definition of a "craft" brewery, as established by the Brewers Association, which requires small production and independent ownership. Rather, the association refers to the beers being sold at Yankee Stadium as "crafty" to distinguish them from those sold by smaller brewers.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have gone on the defensive.

This week, the team began offering its first local craft brews at Yankee Stadium - Bronx Pale Ale, brewed by Bronx Brewery. However, the beer will only be sold at two Stadium locations and will only be offered in cans, despite the fact that Bronx Brewery sits a mere 2 miles down the Major Deegan Expressway from the Stadium.

And that "Craft Beer Destination" sign? It's been replaced by one calling the stand a "Beer Mixology Destination," suggesting that fans should be mixing hard cider and beer to make "snakebites" and "black velvets."

Yankees fans can only hope the team can learn from other clubs. As NPR pointed out this week, other teams have tapped into the craft brew craze, albeit much more successfully.

Detroit Tigers fans have at least seven Michigan brews to choose from, including some from Founders, New Holland, and Bell's. At Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles fans can choose from a variety of Maryland and Delaware offerings, including some from Dogfish Head and Evolution. On Fridays, Flying Dog is continuing its "Firkin Friday" promotion, tapping a different firkin of a cask-conditioned beer for every Orioles home game.

The luckiest beer-drinking baseball fans are San Diego Padres fans, who are able to order from some of the Pacific Northwest's best craft brews at Petco Park, including offerings from Stone, Sierra Nevada, and Green Flash.

Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.

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