Drinking a beer while watching the ballgame may seem like the most natural thing in the world, but for decades the draft selection at American baseball stadiums left a lot to be desired. Spectators mostly made due with a plastic cup of whatever light lager happened to be on tap, along with a hot dog that had been sitting in lukewarm water for the better part of a day.
Thankfully, the times have changed for the better. These days, even food snobs can usually find some upgraded pub grub at the stadium, just as craft beer lovers can now enjoy a wide variety of options at the country’s top parks.
“People are really picking and choosing where they spend their dollars and they want more choices. You still have the old standbys like Cracker Jacks and hot dogs, but you also have some really gourmet options,” says David Graham, brand manager at Karbach Brewing and a certified Cicerone. “It’s the same when it comes to beer. I think the consumer just has a bit more power these days and wants to have a wide selection when they’re coming to these games.”
Last year, Karbach Brewing decided to brew a custom beer in honor of the Houston Astros, making it one of a slew of craft breweries that have joined forces with Major League Baseball teams to brew special beers for the loyal fans. At Yankee Stadium, die-hards can sip on a Pinstripe Pils from Blue Point Brewing, while San Francisco Giants followers might go for Anchor Brewing Co.’s Los Gigantes. Under the Green Monster, Red Sox groupies opt for a Damage Done, a double New England IPA from Boston Beer Co. aged on whole vanilla beans with mangos, guavas, and a hit of lactose.
“When we started talking seriously with the Astros about making this beer, there were a couple things that stood out,” Graham says. “They wanted this to be a beer you could drink with your friends and feel cool, but also drink with your granddad.”
The result was the Crawford Bock, named in honor of the Crawford Boxes, a coveted section over left field in Minute Maid Park that sees plenty of home runs. This decidedly American take on a classic German bock has enough toasty, malty notes to appease beer and baseball lovers of all ages.
“The Astros said they wanted a beer that spoke to their present, but also felt connected with their past,” Graham says. “Baseball is such a multigenerational sport that we didn’t want to go for an extreme IPA or sour that might alienate some people.”
Fans can feel good about enjoying a Crawford Bock or two, especially since a portion of the proceeds goes to support the Astros Foundation, which supports local nonprofits. The cornerstone of the foundation’s initiative is its Community Leaders program, which helps fund baseball and softball fields for inner city youth.
“The Astros are very community-driven and so are we here at Karbach,” Graham says. “By the end of the year, we fully expect our donation raised from beer sales to be over $100,000.”
At 4.5% ABV, Crawfod Bock makes for a sessionable brew well-suited to the nature of the game. While Graham and his colleagues have nothing against boozy bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, these indulgent beers are better suited to another setting. After all, a good beer ought to complement the laid-back, communal nature of the game itself.
“Baseball is a long game and you want a beer where you can crack open one in the third, the fifth, and the seventh inning without feeling it too much,” Graham says. “We wanted a beer with a lot of flavor, but one that could also be enjoyed over the course of hours with friends—much like baseball.”