Mid-Atlantic Brewing News June/July 2004

Craft Beer Abounds at New Phillies’ Park

 By Rich Wagner

The Phillies have a new stadium, and "beer and baseball" have never been bigger or better! The Phillies organization found, through focus groups, that fans wanted more local flavor at Citizens Bank Park. As a result there are food courts with many Philadelphia specialties available from the restaurants who made them famous.  The other local flavor is, of course, the beer, and the beer selection at Citizens Bank Park has got to be better than any other stadium in the country!

At least that's what Kevin Tedesco, the "beer friendly" beverage manager at the stadium, told me as I interviewed him on the phone. I tried to tally the brands he rattled off and said, "What's that, about 30 brands?"

"Actually, it's over 35," he replied. "As I walk around the stadium, I constantly hear positive feedback from the fans. The food and beer are all being very well received. The beer at Citizens Bank Park represents every segment of the marketplace, from A-B, Miller and Coor's to Yuengling, imports and craft beer."

Part of the local flavor at the new stadium involves retro beers like Ballantine. Originally from Newark, NJ, it's now made in Ohio, but many fans will remember the Ballantine Scoreboard at the old Connie Mack Stadium. At Sunnybrook in Pottstown, Bill Moore told me they've been clamoring to get his Ortlieb's Lager because it had local name recognition. I told Kevin that there were probably other retro brands available. Beer guru Joe Owades rolled out his version of the old Rheingold a couple of years ago, and the Lion brewery in Wilkes-Barre is making Schlitz in bottles. Kevin lamented that since Heileman merged the Schmidt logo from Minnesota with the Schmidt's logo from Philadelphia, it just wouldn't have the same local appeal. And while it might not be in the same "retro league" as Ballantine, Philadelphia's 18 year-old Dock Street brand has resurfaced and is available at the stadium.

But the most exciting part of the beer picture for me is the locally produced craft beer. Name any brewery within a 25 mile radius; Yards, Flying Fish, Victory, and its beers are probably available at the stadium. Even brewpubs like Manayunk, Iron Hill and Ortlieb's are supplying beer.  Kevin said he's always on the lookout for new beers.

Kevin explained that there are Brewerytown kiosks throughout Citizens Bank Park. "They were specially designed for the new stadium and made of stainless steel with two towers," he said. In addition there are "Brewerytown" concession stands where draft and bottled beer are available (price, $6.00). Craft beers from outside the Delaware Valley include Anchor Steam, Sierra Pale Ale and Redhook E.S.B. Imported beers include: Corona, Amstel, Heineken, Molson and Fosters. In addition to the national brands, Rolling Rock and Anchor Steam are available in plastic bottles.

I recently passed a historic marker on Broad Street that proclaimed the location of the "Baker Bowl," a stadium that predated Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium) and the Vet. I wondered what local beer they served there in the 1880's. In those days Philadelphia had more breweries than just about any city in the country and some of the nation's largest brewers were located in Brewerytown, less than two miles away. But while it might be nostalgic to reflect on the beers of yesteryear, I can't help but think that today's fans have never had a greater selection of beers to choose from, and the beer has never been better!