All season long, fans cheer on their teams for a grueling 162 games as they chase the October baseball dream. When your team makes it, it’s exhilarating. It’s also painful. Torturous, even. The games seem to slow down as your heart speeds up — which you are acutely aware of, because your heart is your throat as the innings go on. And yet, there’s no better feeling than being at the ballpark, wearing your lucky (and at that point very, very dirty) hat, watching your team in the playoffs. And there’s no better beverage to have in your hand while you do it than a beer.
Few would argue how well beer and baseball go together. The two are intertwined in our brains. The thought of going to a baseball game and not having a beer is almost unimaginable. And yet, believe it or not, in the early days of baseball beer wasn’t even allowed in the ballparks!
When the National League started in 1876, it hoped for proper fans and a well-behaved crowd, and beer sales were deemed at odds with that goal. We have a man named Christian Frederick Wilhelm von der Ahe to thank for bringing together beer and baseball. He saw baseball’s appeal among blue-collar workers so in 1882 he invested in a new league, the American Association, that offered lower ticket prices and sold beer at games.
The beer sales were a hit, but the league struggled. The AA crumbled in 1891, but by then the National League saw the error of their ways. When they snapped up the AA teams in the aftermath of the league’s demise they kept the beer flowing at the ballparks, and the love affair of beer and baseball has been cemented ever since.
Like the beer industry itself, though, beer at ballparks has evolved over time. Even as the craft beer scene started to explode, baseball games were still largely home to Budweiser, Coors and the other mass-produced light lagers of the world. Eventually, though, things started to shift. Now, not only can you find abundant options for local craft beers at ballparks across the country, but you can view online guides and rankings— like this one from October— making a case for the best beer stadiums in America. Ballparks are even riding the cider wave, with 21 of 30 stadiums offering hard ciders at their concession stands.
But of course, the very best way to ensure that you get your perfect pint while watching post-season glory is to take matters into our own hands. Before you park yourself in front of the TV, fill up your uKeg with your favorite beer. Then, raise a glass to Mr. Von Der Ahe and thank him for helping make beer a part of our American pastime.