I've been hoping to get out to a White Sox game and check out the craft beer options they added last year. And their PR people have been offering to have me out as a guest. So, as it turns out, I'm finally able to take them up toward the end of the season. But even this season, I'm still a Sox fan, and I always say "a day at the ballpark is never wasted." So I came out last Saturday, along with Nkosio and Chalonda of, respectively, ChicagoBeerGeeks, and Afro.Beer.Chick.
Of course it was the game after Elvis Night, the annual celebration at which me and the future Mrs. Naut bonded some years ago. But the game against the Royals had its own special events. We arrived at our seats, toting Tim Anderson bobbleheads, as the Marian Catholic High School marching band was finishing a lap around the infield, then we saw Marian's Sister Mary Jo Sobieck burn the ceremonial first pitch right into the strike zone, a pitch that went viral instantly.
I kind of felt like a piker, not staying put in our box seats right behind home plate, but we needed to get up and check out the beer options. It was easy to spot the skybox-level #SoxSocial Tap Room, overlooking the outfield from behind third base. This was a former private party suite, occasionally open to the public with Miller Lite branding. Then last year, Revolution Brewing signed on as a craft beer provider, and took over the spot.
As the name implies, it's a spot intended to facilitate us modern, SEO-oriented types. It's equipped with phone charging stations and storage lockers, and a vending that gives you a free cap when you sign up for the White Sox app. It had food service with street tacos and other ballpark food, couches for watching the game, and, yes, 18 taps of Revolution beer, and a bartender who knew and liked what he was pouring. He even poured a taster of Freedom of Speach sour fruit ale, to go with my Sun Crusher wheat ale.
That was our first beer of the night, so we figured we'd better climb the stairs now. The upper deck may be kind of sparse, this deep into a poor season, but the vendor promenade was roomy, still a little more cozy since they lopped off the top rows of seats and went with the black color scheme. Nik checked out the murals of Sox and Chicago history as we walked along, searching out the upper deck "Kraft Cave." This turned out to be one of the food vending stations along the outer wall, the kind with running water and drainage for preparing hot dogs, etc. But instead this had a counter toward the back wall, which was taken up by several cooler doors, each of which had a screen over it listing the dozens of cans and bottles available. The array was pretty impressive, and we were certain these were more beers than those distributed by the local Anheuser Busch■ purveyor. For example, Pipeworks was well-represented, and they self-distribute.
- Yes, part of the beer shakeup at Sox park involved ditching Miller as the official beer purveyor for Bud. Which also means that Goose Island is well represented there.
Nik spotted and snagged possibly the last can of Baderbräu's South Side Pride. I spotted a Soundgrowler Riff Rider, a chance to finally pop my first beer from that Tinley Park brewery. I note now that while beer vendors in the stands pour tallboys into cups and keep the cans, we were given our cans, and asked if we wanted a cup to go with them. I guess a half-ounce aluminum beer can makes a poor missile to the lower deck, or the field, than a glass bottle.
We didn't quite go all the way around the upper deck, but checked out a "selfie spot" at Gate 4, the one across 35th St. facing north to the Chicago skyline. The "Chicago" sign facing the skyline was a nice touch.
Back to the lower deck. The Sox' PR folks mention one place to check out, a vendor stand called "Change-Up Kitchen," operated by Fooda, a service that brings local restaurant offerings in popup form to offices. This stand featured offering from a different restaurant each home weekend, and this weekend I got to sample the offerings of catering service Twisted Eggroll. Well, basically wraps using egg roll around various fillings. Buffalo chicken? Right there. Macaroni and cheese? Of course.
We finally paid a visit to our seats to find some other fans had taken them. That's all right, we said. We just took the empty row in front of them. They were talking pretty loudly, but we didn't care, because these guys were talking about baseball. One of things I've liked about the White Sox crowds.
Last stop: the lower level Kraft Cave. Once we got our bearing, I realized we were headed to the former Bullpen Sports Bar, with a small patio section right at ground level behind right field. I’ve been there many times, including after the 1997 season, when Jerry Reinsdorf explained that “White Flag Trade” to us season ticket holders, and I got Minnie Minoso and Moose Skowron to sign an autograph ball that already had then-shortstop Ozzie Guillen. It still had an island sports bar in the middle with TV screens showing other sports, like the Bears preseason game. But just past the entrance was an even larger wall of cooler doors with even more craft beers (oh, all right, also Bud and Landshark Lager; we aren’t at FoBAB yet here). But there were all beers from Bell’s, etc., etc., and one lonely can of Baderbräu’s Lyft tie-in.
So we ended the game in the patio outside the Kraft Cave, separated from the field only by a chain link fence. Though the Sox dribbled away their chance to over come a one-run deficit in the 9th, we still had a great time exploring the new park features.
And hey, I’m ecumenical when it comes to beer at any pall park. I’ll gladly check out the beer options at Wrigley Field. But I don;t think the Cubs need me to encourage people to come to the games.
Nik's story of our jaunt to the ball park is here at Chicago Beer Geeks.
As a sidebar: the following weekend we had a block party in my neighborhood. One of my neighbors, who works at Constellation Brands, told us how for years, sports teams would only have one "Official Beer of the…" They got an "in" to have Modelo featured at Guaranteed Rate by suggesting it could be named "Official Import Beer of the White Sox." Maybe soon sports teams will sense a chance to get more sponsorship income by naming an "Official IPA," and "Official Pilsener," an "Official Milkshake IPA," etc.