At PNC Park, on the scent of a crafty cold beer
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My first taste of beer came at the hands of my father who allowed a sip or two after dinner. Like most kids, I wondered what all the fuss was about. He laughed at the face I made after each drink.
As a preteen I progressed to stealing his tall brown bottles of Michelob from a case on the kitchen floor, then drinking them on backyard summer camping excursions with friends. I had acquired a taste for wonderful cold beer that would persist for a lifetime.
Over the next couple decades I progressed from $8 cases of Goebel to $30 cases of Great Lakes Burning River. I officially was becoming a beer snob, unable to drink the mass-produced American beers I affectionately refer to as swill.
Being a beer snob has its drawbacks, such as not being able to find something palatable to drink at the ball park. I'd rather sip water than what comes out of most taps at the game.
I was overjoyed, though, walking into PNC Park on opening day and catching a glimpse of a couple of beers I could actually drink. Out of the corner of my eye I recognized a Dogfish and thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
I headed up to our cheap seats in the 300 section with thoughts of a deep amber, cold bitter brew.
I scoured the third level looking for something other than swill only to have to resort to the most humiliating action for any man: asking where something is.
My beers were only available on the first level and then only at a few stands. I learned where and what was available and devised the most efficient route to obtain my prize. An elevator trip took me down to the first level to section 137 where I saw bottled "craft beers" for $6.50 -- PNC's version of a bargain, I thought. Hell, I'd probably paid close to that in a bar.
I stood in line looking at my choices. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is tasty, but Erie Brewing Co.'s Railbender Ale is known for its potency. With its alcohol content near 7 percent, I figured I was getting two "normal" beers in one.
While waiting in line, I wanted to spread the word, let someone in on my secret and bring them into the fold. Two loud women standing behind me, who'd obviously been drinking, were targeted for my pitch. When one inadvertently bumped into me, I gave it my best shot.
"You know, that beer there has nearly twice as much alcohol as what you would normally drink and it tastes wonderful," I said with a smile. She looked up at me through patriotic eyes (red, white and blue), explaining in slurred words that she had been drinking all day. Then she somehow got it in her head I was buying her two Miller Lites. I hastily retreated and headed for the elevator.
Of course I bought two-- one to drink on the way up (my wife would never know) and another to enjoy during the first part of the game.
I've learned a couple of other tricks for fellow beer snobs. The Trib Total Media Hall of Fame Club, behind the left field bleachers, has lots of good craft beers, and some are on tap for $7.50. They drastically reduce the price after the game, when for a limited window of time, bottles are only $2.50.
In all, baseball fans will find a lot more variety this season. Many of the brands available (see the accompanying graphic) are new this year.
Being a beer snob isn't always easy, but the hunt is half the fun. I'm thinking of buying some general-admission bleacher seats. I think that in more than one way, they will be closer to the action.
Not going to the ballpark? There's craft beer events happening all over, from tomorrow's Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride to several food-and-beer pairings -- even a new local brew. Read Bob Batz Jr.'s latest roundup at post-gazette.com/food.
First Published May 13, 2010 12:00 am