Last Friday night I went to Safeco Field to watch Randy Johnson pitch against the Mariners. It was a bit of a time warp, not only in baseball terms but in beer terms as well. It was a very poignant Seattle moment in the 6th inning when Randy left the game to a roaring, standing ovation and waved goodbye to Seattle baseball fans, presumably forever. It was –I don’t know how else to put it– a very Seattle moment. While it was good to see the Big Unit back on the mound in Seattle, it was sad to see so horribly few Washington beer choices.
I love nostalgic moments like that, but this is 2009 and not 1994. Things have changed since the days when “Randy is pitching” was the only reason the Mariners ever sold more than 10,000 tickets to a game. Back then, our beer culture was still taking shape. Now it is in full bloom. Safeco field is a beer time machine. For Washington beer, I had the following choices: Redhook ESB, Mac and Jack African Amber, Manny’s Pale Ale, and Snoqualmie Falls Grand Slam Amber. I looked. I asked. I looked again. I asked again. That’s what I found. Those are all fine beers, but there’s not nearly enough of them and, let’s be honest, it is not exactly a well thought out selection. It does not really represent the vibrant beer scene that we enjoy here in Seattle.
In 2007, 10 percent of the beer consumed in Washington was craft beer. We can safely assume the number has continued to climb. Anecdotally, one distributor recently told me the number was now closer to 17 percent. The ballpark is a pretty good sampling of Washingtonians that is mixed with wide-eyed tourists. I admit that it is not a perfect representation of our society; however, the ballpark crowd must be quite similar to the segment of our population that chooses to drink craft beer. People willing and able spend $40 on a ticket to a baseball game can, presumably, spend $8 on a six-pack of beer. Demographically, the ballpark is full of “us.”
Safecofield is one of the jewels of our city. Many people from across the country and around the world consider it a must-see destination when they visit Seattle. They sit in the stands with a cup of Ivar’s Clam Chowder and a glass of some fuax craft beer from Coors. They enjoy a Kidd Valley hamburger and chase it down with a glass of Miller Lite.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Safeco Field is a place that should showcase Washington beer. I know it might sound easier in theory than it actually is in practice, but I’d love to see a Washington Beer tent out in center field pouring a carefully-selected, thoughtfully-rotating selection of 12-14 Washington beers. Paint me a dreamer, but I think it would be wildly popular. It would be educational for tourists. It would be embraced by locals.