Over the last several years, the connection between Minor League Baseball and the craft beer industry has steadily grown—and that trend will continue in 2016. Along with keeping their team branded beers on the menu, many clubs are rolling out craft beer nights, beer fests, and more to further the bond between baseball and microbrews.In the latest Promotions Watch, we look at the beer-related offerings fans can expect at the ballpark this season.
Last year, an edition of Promotions Watch was devoted to this exact trend. At the time, much of the focus was on beers named after teams. The Kane County Cougars (Low A; Midwest League) and the Hagerstown Suns (Low A; Sally League) had just unveiled their own ales in conjunction with local breweries, joining a list of teams that included the likes of the Iowa Cubs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High A; Carolina League), Hillsboro Hops (Short Season A; Northwest League), and many more.
Shortly after that feature was published, more teams jumped on board. In April 2015, the Durham Bulls (Class AAA; International League) unveiled plans to open Bull Durham Beer Co. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Also in that month, the Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie; Appalachian League) announced that they would begin selling Cardinal Red Ale, a beer brewed by the Johnson City Brewing Company.
While there might be more team branded beers coming on tap in the future, some teams are upping the ante with weekly craft beer nights. The Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A; Carolina League) are one of these clubs, as the team will host Beer: 30 Thursday this season. In conjunction with Dogfish Head Brewery—a Delaware-based brewer that sponsors the Dogfish Deck at Frawley Stadium—the Blue Rocks will offer beer specials from 5:30-7:00 before every Thursday home game. Discounts on wine and food will also be available.
Of course, the Blue Rocks are not alone in pushing craft beer on Thursday nights, which has traditionally been Thirsty Thursday for most minor league teams. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are offering a weekly Craft Brew Thursdays in which fans can purchase $3 craft beers. The Asheville Tourists (Low A; Sally League) are bringing back their Thirsty Thursday special, which in the past has offered craft brews for $2. That promotion is sponsored by the Catawba Brewing Co., one of the many companies located within Asheville’s bustling craft beer scene.
The Indianapolis Indians (Class AAA; International League) are partnering with the local Sun King Brewery for Thursday Craft Beer Night. During this promotion, $1 from the sale of each featured pint will benefit local charities. It all kicks off on April 14, when proceeds from the Indians’ own Indians Lager will be donated to Outreach, Inc.
On each Thursday home game, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Low A; Midwest league) will offer a Craft Brews & Brats special. In association with Fat Tire and Fox River Brewing Company, the Timber Rattlers will allow fans to purchase a 12 ounce craft and a brat for $2 apiece. However, the deal doesn’t end there: Any Thursday ticket can be redeemed for a free drink at World of Beer.
Bright House Field will be home to a craft beer special of note, as the Clearwater Threshers are tapping into the Tampa Bay area’s robust craft beer scene for Taps and Tacos with Craft Brews. Every Thursday home game will feature a special lineup of 20 local microbrews, and ticket stubs can be redeemed at Tijuana Flats over the weekend for a free taco. In addition, all other beverages are half price.
Rather than stage their promotion on a Thursday, the Kane County Cougars have opted to make their special available on Monday. Micro Mondays will allows fans to purchase craft beer for half off. That offering is paired with another discount, as the Cougars will also run $5 Mondays—in which fans can purchase lawn or reserved seating at that price—for every Monday home game from June to September, with the exception of their contest on July 18.
Another product of the pairing between craft beer and baseball is beer fests, which are featured throughout the year. While some teams—including the Fort Myers Miracle (High A; Florida State League) and the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League)—have made these gatherings an offseason tradition, many ballparks will feature beer fests shortly before or during this season.
On April 7, the Toledo Mud Hens (Class AAA; International League) and the new entertainment district Hensville will be the location of an elaborate Opening Day beer fest. For $45, fans can obtain admission to the Opening Day Beer Bash, which will feature live music, 12 three ounce beer samples, and a buffet. That also includes a ticket for that afternoon’s contest, as well as entry to the Hensville block party.
The Lansing Lugnuts (Low A; Midwest League) will host their spring edition of Beerfest at the Ballpark on April 30. With a slate of participants that includes 60 Michigan breweries, Beerfest at the Ballpark will feature live music, and much more. A variety of ticket packages can be purchased, including a VIP special that will come with admission to the fall version of the festival at Cooley Law School Stadium.
The Reading Fightin Phils (Class AA; Eastern League) are offering beer tasting festivals on a recurring basis. Starting with an event on May 6, the Fightin Phils will offer five beer tasting promotions throughout the season, the last of which is set for September 1. As part of the special, fans can purchase a ticket that grants them access to beer samples in Bunbino’s Tailgate at the Coors Light Deck for two hours, plus a buffet that will run for two-and-a-half hours. Pricing on the festivals vary, so see the Fightin Phils’ website for more details.
Rounding out this group of promotions is Sip N’ Swing, a preseason tradition for the Lake Elisnore Storm (High A; California League). In its 10th season, Sip N’ Swing is an event that goes beyond beer samples—a family fun zone is part of the activities, which will also include giveaways, a beer and sausage fest in the right field picnic deck, and tours of The Diamond. This event is set for March 20, and features free parking and admission.
Whether it’s a beer fest, team branded brew, or a craft beer special, there will be plenty of ways for fans to take part in the bond between baseball and beer. The trend shows no signs of slowing down, and there could be even more around the corner.