Local brews crack ballpark lineup

April 04, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

In editions of April 4, it was reported incorrectly that National Bohemian is not among the beers served in concession stands at Oriole Park.

+ The Sun regrets the errors.

After a two-year hiatus, local beers are back at the ballpark.

Baltimore suds were a common sight at Orioles games since Major League Baseball returned to town in 1954. But when the team moved from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards in 1992, the concessionaire, ARA Leisure Services of Philadelphia, stopped selling National Bohemian in favor of better known mega-brands.

At today's season opener, however, local brews -- though not Natty Boh -- will have a cherished place at the downtown ballpark. A new concession stand at the stadium will be devoted to the state's growing microbrew industry, selling such geographically diverse products as the Eastern Shore's Wild Goose and Western Maryland's Blue Ridge.


"I think it's terrific. There are a lot of people who've spent a lot of energy trying to develop a local product you can have pride in. It's only fitting we're in that ballpark," said Hugh Sisson, brewmaster-owner of the South Baltimore Brewing Co. and Sisson's pub.

The stand, which will operate as an ARA subcontractor on Eutaw Street between the stadium and adjacent warehouse, will have a capacity for five or six draft beers and a couple of brands of bottled beer at a time, said Karl Schenk, a computer analyst and beer enthusiast.

Mr. Schenk will own and operate the stand along with partner Bernie Smiasek, a medical equipment sales and marketing executive.

Mr. Schenk said he was angered when he read in the paper two years ago that Maryland beers were not being served at the state-financed park. He and his partner pressed ARA officials, who resisted the idea, maintaining that consumers prefer the better-known, national brands.

Changes in local ARA management and ownership of the team resulted in a more supportive attitude this year, Mr. Schenk said. And the microbrewing industry -- characterized by high-quality, small-volume specialty beers -- has developed a stronger following among consumers, he said.

Information about local brewers will be available at the stand, and area brewmasters will be on hand occasionally to answer questions.

"It's nice with a city like this that has so many microbrews to do this. I just hope people like it and it sells. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but we're going to try it," said Stephen Newhart, ARA concession manager at Oriole Park.

The Opening Day lineup looks like this: Baltimore Brewing Co.'s Maibock, a malty, German-style beer brewed for cool weather; the Wharf Rat's Irish Red ale, Sisson's Stockade Ale, Oxford Class amber ale, and Blue Ridge porter, all on tap. Wild Goose ale, Thomas Point Light and Blue Ridge will be available in bottles.

Bottled microbrews will sell for $4.25 and 16-ounce drafts for $4.75. That compares with bottled imported beers selling elsewhere at the stadium for $4.50, regular domestics selling at $3.25 for a 12-ounce can in the stands, and $3.25 for a 16-ounce cup and $3.75 for a 20-ounce cup at concession stands.

Mr. Schenk said he will not offer National Bohemian or National Premium, brewed at Halethorpe by the Wisconsin-based G. Heileman Co., because he wants to charge the same price for all the beers at the stand and those beers sell for less. At one time, the brewers of National Bohemian owned the Orioles, but both have since been sold.

National Premium's distributor, Best Way Distributing Co., tried unsuccessfully again this year to have the beer sold by vendors in the stands, said Best Way president Reid V. Eikner.

With the loss of the Pimlico market last year and the Baltimore Arena a few years ago, the beer is not being sold at any major athletic venue in the city.

The variety of microbrews will put Camden Yards at the forefront of stadiums serving them, said Lori Tullberg-Kelly, marketing director of the Association of Brewers. "I don't know of any ballpark that does that," she said.

Although sporting events have traditionally been important in the marketing of beers -- because they attract large numbers of young men, a brewer's chief market -- most ballparks have focused on a handful of national brands with strong consumer acceptance, she said.

Microbrews are quickly winning acceptance nationwide, she said. Although they represent less than 2 percent of the beer produced in the United States, sales have leaped by 40 percent to 50 percent a year in recent years, she said.

Bill Covaleski, brewer at Baltimore Brewing Co., said the ballpark represents an important marketing opportunity for local brewers.

"It's a shame that it had to be the third season [at Oriole Park], but we're happy to be in, and we hope it will grow to something larger," Mr. Covaleski said.

=1 "The entire industry will benefit from this."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.