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Friday, March 2, 2007

My efforts on behalf of stadium beer offerings

By day, I am in the alcohol beverage business here in the District, so this brings me into contact with many of the movers-and-shakers whose jobs are to slake this city's thirst. As a devoted Nats fan with a voice in the local alcohol industry, I feel duty-bound to try and improve upon the already-decent offerings at R.F.K.

Fans who attended games during the Inaugural Season (hereafter referred to as either "Nats Year 1", or "'05" or whatever abbreviation strikes me) were treated to the Foggy Bottom Pub, which was run by Premium Distributors (the Miller distributor) and it had Foggy Bottom Lager, Ale and a special brew made just for the stadium, Foggy Bottom Pils. All the beers were local and very good, and Foggy Bottom (née, Olde Heurich) was a Washington, D.C. institution from a bygone era. The "pub" also had a delicious steak sandwich platter with really good potato chips. I enjoyed them and considered that to be a crucial stop when visiting R.F.K.

Unfortunately, in March of 2006, Foggy Bottom's owner, Gary Heurich, declared bankruptcy, stating at the time, "23 years of losing money is enough", I believe. (oddly enough, as indicated above if you clicked the link, the website is still up and doesn't seem to make any indication that they are out of business) So for the 2006 season, the pub was taken over by Premium Distributors and just served a couple of Miller products, and "Home Run Ale" (which is Leinenkugel). Gone was the great sandwich platter, too.

R.F.K. has had several good beer offerings, including Guinness, Harp, Sam Adams "Summer", Blue Moon and Redhook on draught, and lots of bottled beers, including Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob "Ultra", Miller, Miller Light, Heineken, and Amstel Light. (Fun Beer Fact: Those 20 oz. beers in the plastic bottles with the twist-off caps are ONLY available for stadium use. I couldn't order those for sale if I begged for them. Oh, and the mark-up on those things is staggering, of Haliburton-proportions, really.)

For 2007 (and beyond) I've taken it upon myself to speak with my friend Jim Lutz, who is both the owner of Wild Goose Brewery (formerly, Frederick Brewing Company) and also the mid-Atlantic rep for Denver's Flying Dog Brewery, now being brewed here at Wild Goose, so I think that it now counts as "local". Jim is a good guy, having regained ownership of his Wild Goose label after spending time with the Ram's Head Tavern Group, spearheading Fordham Beer. Since the Lerners/Stan Kasten are all about bringing in local groups as vendor partners, I strongly urged Jim Lutz to contact the Nationals about taking over the stadium pub and doing something good with it. At the very least, we want more good beer options, right? I wrote to a contact that I have with the team in the hopes that I could advocate Jim's position. We shall see if my persistence has paid off or not very soon and, if it has, I invite every Nats fan and blogger to buy me Wild Goose and Flying Dog throughout the season, in gratitude :-)

Wanting to hedge my bets, I also spoke with the local rep today for Dogfish Head Brewery, out of Delaware. Those are some wonderful and often esoteric beers, but if you've been to any D.C. bars or restaurants with a good tap lineup, you've probably seen Dogfish Head 60-Minute I.P.A. or Shelter Pale Ale, or another beer or two. They've got quite the following now.

Sadly, my friend and neighbor Jerry Bailey, the founder of Old Dominion Brewing Company in Virginia, sold his brewery last year to his employees, so I no longer have that contact, else I'd be pestering him as well. It's a nice move for Jerry and his former employees, and I'm all in favor of supporting independent craft breweries, especially if they are local, but I have no idea if the Dominion folks are interested or pursuing placement at R.F.K., but they ARE distributed by Premium, so there is a chance that Dominion Lager or Ale, or their summer beer (if they have one this year) could be available on draught. I'd like to see them represented there.

I encourage all Nats fans and beer fans to contact the team, or Premium Distributors of D.C. (ask for Jimmy Reyes, he's the Head Honcho, and a very nice and reasonable guy, too.) and urge them to feature our local favorites. After all, our local beers are what help to make us unique. You can get a Bud or a Miller at all Major League ballparks, but only at R.F.K. (and the stadium-to-be-named-later) can you get our local brews. (Okay, okay, you might be able to get Wild Goose and Flying Dog at Camden Yards, for all I know, but why wouldn't you have a Natty-Bo instead? ;-) )


Anonymous said...

Hey Joe,

But what about the BRISKET? ;-)

Joe Riley said...

I'll get to the food after Opening Day 8)

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