The Seattle Mariners may not win Major League Baseball's Western Division this year but there is one category where they can challenge any team in baseball: beer variety at the ball park.
Thanks to the efforts of Safeco Field stadium concessionaire Centerplate, fans attending a Mariners game can choose from more than 50 different varieties of beer sold on draft, in bottles and even limited-release, 22-ounce "bomber" bottles. —
The beer list at Safeco is simply a reflection of the culture of the Pacific Northwest, Centerplate said. The Mariners play in Seattle, and Washington State has more than 150 different breweries.
"We have a unique demographic that's very highly educated about beer," said Steve Dominguez, Centerplate general manager. "They tell us what they are looking for and we seek to meet that demand with the right variety of flavors."
While a beer list boasting more than 50 options for any one game is impressive, dig a little deeper and it's clear just how serious the Mariners and Centerplate take their beer offerings. As the weather changes during the months-long Major League seball season, so too do the beer offerings.
"Attend a game in April or May when the weather is still cold and damp and the list will be full of IPA's," said Adrian Dishington, Centerplate regional vice president, referring to India Pale Ales, which tend to have a stronger hops flavor. "As the season moves into the warmer months, we'll be offering more Hefeweizens (wheat-based beers) and lighter beers. Toward the end of the season, as the weather turns colder again, we'll be more focused on heavy and heartier beers, more Oktoberfest's, things like that."
The Safeco beer list is mix of big national brands like MillerCoors and small local favorites like Fremont Brewery and Skagit River Brewery.
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While MillerCoors is the main beer sponsor at Safeco, Centerplate officials said the conglomerate has no problem sharing the stage with the region's smaller brewers.
In fact, Dominguez said MillerCoors uses Safeco to showcase the variety in its beer portfolio by offering the usual ballpark staples like Miller Lite and Coors Light, as well as beers from its craft beer division, which includes Blue Moon, Leinenkugel and Batch 19.
While MillerCoors may have deep pockets, that's not the case with a majority of the brewers found at the stadium.
"Ninety-nine percent of the beers on our list don't pay to play," said Dishington.
While breweries like Elysian Brewing and Silver City may be smaller in size, they are not small in impact. Centerplate officials said craft beer brands outsell the larger domestic brands by a four-to-one ratio.
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Fans can expect to pay the typical ballpark premium when buying a craft beer: a 12-ounce craft draft costs $7.75, a 20-ounce craft draft $9.75 and a 22- to 24-ounce bomber bottle costs $11.50.
Much of the beer in the ball park is sold via "craft carts," the 25 beer carts located throughout the stadium, which sell these specialty brews.
Pyramid Brewing, located across the street from the Safeco, even goes so far as to use its craft cart as a laboratory of sorts, brewing 25-barrel test batches of beer and selling it at its craft cart to gauge customer reaction.
While that type of attention is enough to win over most beer fans, Dishington joked not every fan is convinced the Safeco beer selection is a home run.
"You look at our list and it seems massive, but because there so many local options in this market, we still have people complaining we don't have their particular favorite!" he laughed.
-By CNBC's Tom Rotunno; Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno
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