Good beer at the ballpark? Yes please!

It is another sure sign that spring is here. Opening day is just eight days away. The Mariners hit the field for real in Oakland on Friday, April 1st. The home opener is a week later on Friday, April 8th.

Yesterday Snoqualmie Falls Brewing posted something on Facebook—a list of where to find Snoqualmie Falls’ beer at Safeco Field. I share that list at the end of this post. (I’d be happy to do it for anyone else, too. Just let me know.)

Where’s the Beer?

In the Seattle-area one of every four beers consumed is a craft beer. You’d expect the ballpark to offer a similar quotient of good beer. If they do, they hide it very well.

Furthermore–and this has to do with more than beer–because Safeco Field was build with public funds, and the Mariners’ very existence at one point hinged on a tax levied against the populous, we should demand that the concessionaires at the ballpark support the local economy by selling locally produced items whenever it is reasonably possible. For instance, beer. I recognize that the hats, the t-shirts, and the big foam fingers must come from Taiwan, but the beer does not need to come from Missouri. It may sound crazy, but I make a decent point.

They will Come

I dream of a Washington Beer kiosk in center field: a place where perhaps 24 taps pour local brews. I dream of a place not serving beer brewed 1,500 miles away; rather, it would serve beer brewed 15 minutes away. This magical beer kiosk would appeal to locals as well as tourists. After all, it’s what we do around here: we throw fish, we ride ferry boats, we have a Space Needle, and we brew beer.

I see it staffed with people who know something about beer. It’s a place where our local brewers enjoy a home field advantage. I hear a voice whispering, “If you build it…”

Shouting at a Wall

My words are meaningless as wind in high grass. My silly little opinion means nothing to the powers-that-be. Even people with much closer access to the Mariners’ ear have told me that it’s like shouting at a wall.

Truthfully, it’s a more complicated issue than I’m letting on. A-B Inbev (Budweiser) has a huge contract with Major League Baseball, which includes agreements for stuff like co-branding, broadcasting, merchandising, advertising, and even beer. Also, the Mariners contract-out the concessions to a vendor. Once the ink dries on the contract, the Mariners have pretty much nothing to do with determining what beer gets poured at the stadium. Blah, blah, blah.

I suppose we shouldn’t complain too much. It could be worse. I’ve been told the beer selection is worse at just about every ballpark in America. Slowly but surely the selection of craft beer at Safeco Field has improved over the years. So I should just be happy to take one little victory at a time.

Thank you and congratulations to the guys and gals who continue to work on our behalf. I’m talking about the distributors. Seriously. At Safeco Field, Odom and Columbia in particular seem to have made some good headway. They’re the best shot we have. If they can’t get good beer into the ballpark, nobody can.

Snoqualmie Falls at Safeco Field

From the Snoqulmie Falls Brewing Facbook page, here’s where to find their beer.

Five handles on the Field Level:

  • Four handles in the Caught Looking Bar
  • One handle in Tortuga

Six handles in the portables:

  • One handle at section 111 (right field foul pole)
  • One handle at section 118 (just beyond first base)
  • Two handles at section 126 (behind home plate on the first base side)
  • One handle at section 140 (third base)
  • One handle at section 195 (center field)

As a Safeco Field veteran, I have to tell you that I’ve never heard of the Caught Looking Bar or Tortuga. I’m guessing that the Caught Looking Bar is what they used to call Power Alley. That’s the only place I can image having that many tap handles. If I’m correct, it’s on the main concourse level between home plate and third base, kind of around back. I have no idea about Tortuga.

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  1. I love your idea of a well staffed WA Beer kiosk, but I’m a bit surprised by the bad rap Safeco Field’s beer selection gets here and elsewhere. Sure, it’s dominated by the mega-breweries, but there are quite a few offerings from WA, and their selection has been improving over time.

    In addition to the ubiquitous Pyramid, Red Hook, Mac & Jack’s and Manny’s, I’ve enjoyed beers from Elysian (The Immortal), Lazy Boy (Pale), Hale’s (Kölsch), Pike (Pale) and Snoqualmie (Wildcat). Those were all available on the 300-level last season. There’s still room for improvement, but I think that’s a pretty decent selection, particularly for a ball park.

  2. Sure, there’s good beer at Safeco Field. You just have to know where to find it, I suppose. Or just get lucky when you get to the front of the line. Maybe my idea of having all the good beer represented in one place (as well as all those other random places) is too far fetched.

  3. You don’ t know good you have it. I was shocked and amazed to see Bridgeport when Safeco first opened up. There was nothing like that in the old Kingdome. There a number of local brews available. Not always my first choice, but still very drinkable beers can be found fairly easily all over the park. It is far and away the best sports venue for beer I have ever been to, include Key (almost exclusively Pyramid) and the Seahawks (almost impossible to find any micros). Chavez Ravine, they will make you a bad margarita, and the Giants have a few good beers, but nothing compared to the local selection that Safeco has.

    NY stadiums only have bud or miller, and it once took me 4 innings to get a 20 oz of bud, the lines are so bad.

  4. The desire to have good craft beer available at every kiosk is a good one but until that time comes I feel that the beer selection at Safeco is quite good. As you mentioned the key is knowing where to get it. The best selection in the Stadium is on the main concourse roughly behind home plate, I believe this is the Caught Looking Bar. The key is knowing where to find it. The bar is located behind the food vendors facing west and not visible unless you know where to look. They have a great selection of bottle and always have a large variety of local taps.

  5. I’m guessing that the Caught Looking Bar is what they used to call Power Alley. That’s the only place I can image having that many tap handles. If I’m correct, it’s on the main concourse level between home plate and third base, kind of around back.

    I’m glad people are enthusiastic about the topic.

  6. We’re learning more. Dick’s Danger, Lazy Boy IPA, Lazy Boy Pils, Skagit Scullers IPA… all on tap at the ballpark this summer. Word is, they’ve also done some sweet improvements to the center-field beer garden. More to come

  7. What’s the price for a locally produced beer at Safeco?

    Qwest Field (I can only speak for Sounders games) has a similar situation. National brands, Pyramid, Red Hook and Widmer at the concessions. Good beer if you know where to find it, like the carts near my section. 😉 Big Al, Three Skulls, Red Hook Seasonals, Alaskan. Saw Pike’s Kilt Lifter there at the last game, and a couple of seasons ago they had Rogue/Issaquah.

    But this season the price went up to $9.50 a pint. Probably has something to do with the Great Beer Scandal:

    I was grumpy paying $8.50 in past seasons, so $9.50 is over the line for me and I’m not going to buy beer at Qwest anymore. I’ll just get soused before the game. I’ll save my Hamiltons for special releases in the bottle that deserves that price. I sent a polite note to the Sounders to register my complaint, and a note to Big Al to let them know the same even if they don’t control the prices.

  8. After my first trip to the park yesterday, I definitely got the impression they took out of bunch of options and replaced them with more mainstream taps. Not bud so much, but lots of Redhook and Pyramid.

    In particular, it was sure hard to find any IPAs. Maybe they are getting %alc-conscious?

    They have completely wiped out the 15-20-tap bar around the corner from the Ichi_Roll sushi place. 4 taps o’ crap.

    I did stumble across a place with Ninkasi and Elysian Men’s Room Red out between the bullpen and Center field. Alas, I had already compromised with a Manny’s.

    I guess it’s not so bad, but it appears to be trending the wrong way.

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