This season will bring about more unique food and beverage offerings from the Battle Creek Bombers (summer collegiate; Northwoods League). The team that has rolled out some creative menu options in past seasons is continuing that tradition with the Cheboygaroni and Cheese, and it taking a step further by rolling out its first team-branded beer, Epic Red Ale (E.R.A).
For some teams, the introduction of a unique food item might be a first, but that is certainly not the case in Battle Creek, where the Bombers have rolled out several signature dishes over the past few years. Since 2013, the Bombers have generated headlines with menu additions such as the Twinkie Dog, L’Eggo My Eggo, and the Poptarko.
“This year, we kind of wanted to keep the tradition going,” said Bombers general manager Tony Iovieno. Iovieno has been with the Bombers since 2013, and has a food and beverage background from his previous stops with the Boston Red Sox, Hagerstown Suns (Low A; Sally League), and North Shore Navigators (summer collegiate; Futures Collegiate Baseball League). He said the Cheboygaroni and Cheese came in part from a collaboration with the Cheboygan Brewing Company. “We just kind of worked with them, and developed this thing and it’s really taken off.”
The Cheboygaroni and Cheese is an interesting concept. It features beer-infused macaroni and cheese, served inside of an orange peel with a hint of balsamic vinaigrette. Fans under 21, or those who wish to pass on the beer infusion, will have an option as the Bombers will also serve a version of Cheboygaroni and Cheese that does not feature alcohol. The ale that flavors the macaroni and cheese is the Blood Orange Honey, a wheat beer brewed by Cheboygan.
According to Iovieno, these extreme food items are traditionally met with an enthusiastic response once they hit the menu at C.O. Brown Stadium. “We have groups that have come out year over year, and they will do eating contests,” said Iovieno. “The fans that really follow the team closely wait to see what we come up with. It’s part of who we are and what we do now.”
While the Cheboygaroni and Cheese stands out for its ingenuity, it will not be the only signature addition at the ballpark this year. E.R.A. will also be making its debut this season, which comes after some planning on the part of the Bombers.
“It’s something that’s been a dream of mine,” Iovieno said of adding the team-branded beer. “I just happened to be in a place where it worked out. It came together really out of a 20-minute conversation with a brewery rep.”
The creation of Frankenmuth Brewery—the oldest brewer in Michigan—E.R.A. is a red ale with toasted malt characters, and touch of fruit flavor. E.R.A is, of course, not just the initials for Epic Red Ale, but is also a nod to Earned Run Average.
“I’m anticipating it being pretty successful here,” said Iovieno. “Michigan is a big craft beer state, and it’s on tap at every one of our outlets.” In fact, the Bombers recently made E.R.A. available during a recent open house at C.O. Brown Stadium, and received positive feedback from fans.
E.R.A. will also be available at bars around the Battle Creek area. While the process of distributing the beer to these establishments is still ongoing, E.R.A. has already secured a spot at FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek.
While this season—which begins on May 31—will determine the fan demand for E.R.A. and Cheboygaroni and Cheese, the Bombers know that they will have to come up with a creative follow up. Iovieno did not confirm which items will be added next year, but he said that the Bombers will follow their ritual of planning early in the offseason. “It’s a fun offseason project we start tackling in September. It’s always interesting to think what we can come up,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll put some stuff up on the board in September and come up with something.”