What better time than a historical travesty of a blizzard to write an entire post about cold substances that endanger your safe return home?
I've always wanted to write an analysis of the beer selection at the White Sox home stadium because people like beer, and I like being judgmental about beer even more so. Plus, there really isn't much to write about considering team rosters are pretty much set, the fans are starting to mutter excitedly, but nothing actually baseball-pertinent is occurring. My last entry on Alexei Ramirez' contract seemed relevant, but that deal actually has no effect on the 2011 season. None!
But a cataloging of all the beers sold at a hideous mark-up (everything's around $7) inside the White Sox home stadium? That could change the result of actual games (albeit almost certainly for the worse) this season, which is why you'll be glad that I'm relying on anecdotal information and depreciated memory because I haven't been to a game since September.
Still, this should be fun.
The Zeitgeist - Miller Lite & MGD
U.S. Cellular Field exists in America, so by rule, it at some point had to decide whether it was going to be drenched in Miller or Budweiser. They chose Miller, and one can only wonder if the coin they used to make that decision is still in Reinsdorf's possession. The knocks on these two beers are obvious (weak, watery, 8 brushings can't remove the taste out of your mouth, reeks of rotten bread, the "Triple-Hops Brewed Process" tagline is utter BS, etc). However, for any beer to get as absurdly popular as the cheap, crummy Miller beers, it has to have some strengths--other than just unparalleled levels of corporate heft.
It's cheap - $7 bottles and $6.75 drafts are right around the price other selections, but the bottles are 16 ounces, and they tend to give you more on drafts. If your goal is to--consequences be damned--drink until the games becomes a blur...and you're really serious about the 'damn the consequences' part, this is the most efficient route.
It's available - Sure, you're drinking, but first and foremost, you're watching a baseball game. Due to what I'm sure was a shrewdly negotiated contract, these are the only two beers sold by the vendors in the stands. So unless you're fine with missing an inning or two, or three, there'll be plenty of settling going on.
Beers of the World
These beers pretty clearly represent as good, if not the best selection in the stadium, but they get knocked down for two reasons. First, it's all a collection of bottles, but to opt for bottled beers when there's beer on tap all around you is mild blasphemy. That's judgmental and prickish, but hey, so is this post. Second, I must reiterate that you're at a baseball game. These stands and scattered about easy enough to find them, but unless there's one right by your section (and if you're in the outfield, there isn't) it's too much of a time investment to seek it out more than once mid-game. Fine for your first beer of the night, but not a long-term plan. The imports are typically $7.25 and they include:
Guinness - Dark, rich, and satisfying, but these are also its faults. I like Guinness, but the idea of drinking it on a regular basis is exhausting. Pick one game to gorge on Guinness, and then don't eat anything that night.
Stella Artois - This Belgian lager is familiar from commercials in front of indie movies at the Century...alright maybe it's not familiar. It has kind of a crisp (read: bitter) aftertaste that takes adjusting to and will evoke initial complaining, but it's a goodie.
Bell's Oberon - It's interesting to see a beer from Michigan listed under "Beers of the World", perhaps a better label would be "Craft Beers" or "Somewhat Smaller Breweries", or "If You Care At All About Taste...". Anyhoo, I know people whom I respect the tastes of who are thrilled that it's at U.S. Cellular, and that gives me the security to recommend it even if it has never registered beyond "generic above-average wheat beer" to me.
Beck's - You're right, this is an import, but living, breathing proof that the Germans are capable of cheaply producing mediocre beer isn't the most vital use of shelf space.
Beers that are probably on sale at the Beers of the World stand, but on tap elsewhere, so why would you ever go to the Beers of the World stand?
Every Leinenkugel variation you'd ever be interested in- This includes Amber Ale, Red, Honeyweiss, and Summer Shandy. All are available at the hilariously quaint Leinenkugel stand in the upper deck, but Summer Shandy and Amber Ale can both be found on tap in the left-center field region. Summer Shandy is the most tasty, but that's because it's cut with lemonade, making it the, how do you say, least efficient option. Amber Ale is admittedly my go-to option because it's right next to my section in the left-field bleachers, but also because it tastes like a superior version of MGD, making my bouts of laziness where I buy from the beerman less of a shock to the system.
Blue Moon - I can't rule out the presence of Blue Moon in other unexplored regions of the park, but I verify the presence of a Blue Moon stand in right field. There you'll find Blue Moon on tap, Miller Lite on tap, 10 idiots thinking this was a great way to cut around the normal beer lines, and a disgruntled clerk wondering what the hell she sliced up 20 oranges for. Why is Blue Moon the only beer that's served with an orange slice in U.S. Cellular? Wouldn't orange slices make any beer taste better, not just one particular wheat beer? These are legitimate questions.
Pilsner Urquell - Even if you're like me, and think that Pilsner Urquell is excessively hoppy and almost inherently overrated due to the focus on it being the first pilsner beer ever, the novelty factor of this being sold in a baseball stadium is pretty high. Maybe too high. The one time I ordered this the attendant poured out three cupfuls of head before handing me my beer. Apparently it's not popular.
I'm not going to spend much time on hard liquor because I haven't explored it and why you'd trust a ballpark employee to mix drinks for you is beyond me, but here's a nugget of info I have for you. You can find a plethora of margarita stands all about the main concourse, and they'll serve you this tasty enough lime concoction in a souvenir cup. It's not strong at all, but it's a decent size and non-poisonous. However, if you take a chance on the guy making the rounds through the stands serving margaritas out of...well....it's a backpack, you'll find he serves a far more potent, icy strawberry version. As long as you can stand the vendor excitedly screaming at you "Are you ready?!!?? I'm ready!!!!" and ignore that his socks are stained red by the 3rd inning, this is the smarter buy.
And finally, the Bullpen Sports Bar
Ever wondered what it would be like if Sox fans had their own miniaturized version of Wrigleyville? Look no farther. The ability to make silly faces at the opposing pitcher during warm-ups isn't worth this. But then, what is?
I'm sure I left some selections out because there are corners of the stadium I haven't explored, or I've just forgotten them over the last four months...or because I was drinking when I was making these memories. With that in mind, I'd love to hear what I omitted, and will probably be making updates to this later.
Legit baseball articles:
J.J. Stankevitz and Jim Margulus have both penned reactions to the Alexei Ramirez signing. Pretty much no one is against it.
Colin at South Side Sox is soliciting team projections from fans for the season. I'd have done it already, but it looks so much like work on a computer screen, it'd be a shame for me to not do it while actually at work.