Ken Leighton 8 a.m., Jan. 18
Starting a Movement: Craft Beer in Stadiums!
If there's one thing I crave when I'm watching 22 Goliath-like athletes knock the stuffing out of each other on an NFL football field, it's a rich, full-bodied Napa Valley cab. Certainly, nothing goes better with the equally mind-swelling roar of a blood-thirsty crowd or 90-plus early autumn temps at Qualcomm Stadium.
By now you've likely gathered that I'm being sarcastic, but even I, a passionate craft beer enthusiast, realize wine has its place in all places and appreciate the fact it's available to oenophiles at major sporting events. Everybody deserves to have their beverage of choice.
So, I was encouraged and even a bit enthusiastic when the San Diego Chargers recently announced they are rolling out a team-associated cabernet sauvignon...until I heard the details.
Despite my devotion to craft beer, I appreciate good wine and have made many a pilgrimage to Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles, but it makes zero sense that the Chargers have made that long trip to procure Napa grapes for their "special" wine when there is plenty of viable fruit right in San Diego County, as well as the nearby wine valley of Temecula. It's like a grip-and-twist of the face mask to local vintners. Where's the hometown pride?
I've been asking myself this question for some time...usually during pre-game beer runs to local bars and brewpubs that carry craft beer. Such fill 'er up sessions are essential for quality beer drinkers in San Diego, seeing as how there's not a drop of craft ale or lager to be had at Qualcomm Stadium.
That's right, in what is arguably the craft-brewing capital of the United States -- a region that's gunning to eclipse the 40-mark for total operating craft brewhouses before the year is out -- not one of those companies' award-winning, world-class beers is available at the county's largest sporting venue.
The Chargers' out-of-town cab (from a winery the team's ownership has a stake in...ah, now it's starting to make sense) is simply the latest demonstration of the disconnect that exists between team ownership and its fan base. The fact the wine is called Legacy is appropriate, given that it falls right in line with the Chargers' (and just about every other professional sports team's) long-time treatment of craft beer and the people who consume it.
Few public sports facilities in our country offer craft beer, instead choosing to allow the majority (if not all) of their taps and refrigeration units to be overrun by mass-produced macrobrews with little flavor and even less heart behind their operations.
I want to enjoy craft beer at professional sporting events. Preferably it would be from a local brewery, but the fact is that there are plenty of quality quaffs to be had from many of our country's 1500-plus craft breweries. It's time the craft beer subculture -- drinkers, brewers, and industry associates alike -- stand up and start a movement demanding the individuals behind the operation of stadiums, ballparks, and arenas carry local, thoughtfully produced and, most importantly, exceptional-tasting craft beer.
And I'm not just talking San Diegans. This is something that needs to happen on a nationwide level. These are public institutions we're talking about, and the public should not stand for these venues eliminating the American consumer's freedom of choice.
I encourage all craft-beer drinkers -- as well as supporters of local and small businesses and individuals who simply relish freedom of choice and a commitment to variety and overall excellence to author blog posts -- tweet, put up Facebook posts, write letters, grab a microphone, or use any other means of communication to help build a groundswell around this topic so that some day craft beer and locally sourced consumables of all kinds will be readily and rightfully available at public sporting venues -- not to mention other public facilities such as airports, convention centers, and concert venues -- throughout the country.
Let this be the day that a movement starts, and let our common thread in a virtual world where real change is possible be #craftbeerinstadiums!