The Boston Red Sox have won three World Series titles in the last 10 seasons, but when it comes to the beer offerings at their home ballpark, the Sox are sitting well below .500 in the standings.
The Red Sox rank 22nd out of 30 Major League teams in overall beer ranking, according to a new Washington Post feature. The survey ranked teams on locality (how many breweries represented are based in the same state as the team), quality and uniqueness. The Sox didn’t do particularly well in any category, failing to rank higher than No. 20.
There were 57 recognized breweries in Massachusetts at the end of 2013, but the Sox haven’t taken advantage of that proliferation as well as some teams. This season, the Cincinnati Reds opened a Reds Brewery District with a bar featuring more than 50 taps, including 20 craft offerings from noted breweries like Bell’s and Founders. In Cleveland, there’s a dedicated stand for craft beers brewed in Ohio. The Angels sell brews from standout Southern California breweries Hangar 24 and Bootleggers.
I wrote a story on ballpark beer for Beer Advocate Magazine two years ago, and at that time, the Sox, as well as both New York teams, lagged behind the rest of the country in diversifying beer sales. Sox fans will take some solace in knowing the Yankees ranked last in the recent Washington Post survey, but in the two years since my piece came out (sorry for the lack of a link, Beer Advocate mag doesn’t publish stories online), the Sox haven’t expanded their offerings much, either.
For the Post’s purposes in this story, “quality” was determined by how a brew rated on BeerAdvocate.com. Fenway’s highest-rated beer is Finest Kind IPA, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewery, earning a 92 of 100. Samuel Adams Boston Lager, with a score of 85, is Fenway’s second-highest scoring brew. You can also get beers from Harpoon Brewery, Nantucket’s Cisco Brewery, and Wachuset Brewing Co. at Fenway if you know where to look.
I now write a weekly beer column for the Globe, so I know how imperfect Beer Advocate’s rankings can be, skewing in favor of heavy double-IPAs, for example, that are unlikely to be found at the ballpark. Still, as a frequent visitor to Fenway, I can safely say that Fenway’s best beer lies outside the park’s monster-green walls.
The Post’s feature has left out some obvious truths. No matter where you go, you’d expect more of the good stuff to be found outside the park than in it, especially given the giant contract MLB has with Anheuser-Busch. Everyone hates paying $9.50 for a Coors Light. The WaPo’s methodology could be quibbled with—there’s no distinction made between craft beers and those coming from the big guys, for example—but overall the teams are placed on equal footing. There’s no denying the Red Sox, as well as their division-mates the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays, could do more with the beer available to them. (the Orioles, they of the beautiful ballpark, rank 5th in beer)
The Red Sox have a smart, dedicated fan base, spend money on their players, and generally (this season aside) win a lot of games. Would it be too much to ask to watch a few of those games while sipping on a couple of decent IPAs and an oatmeal stout?