Image courtesy Ballast Point
Paul Elder's label art for Ballast Point's Legion Lager, the official beer of the San Diego Legion rugby team.
Professional sports have returned to San Diego, and beer and spirit sponsorships have returned with them. Although we’re all accustomed to seeing “tastes great, less filling” ads during televised games, and light beer logos on stadium scoreboards, local beverage producers have increasingly partnered with local teams to help fans double down on hometown pride.
Even in the big leagues, where our San Diego Padres have finally returned to playing in front of fans following their first playoff season since 2006. Though fans have been accustomed to drinking local beer in Petco Park for several seasons now, official branding partnerships have mostly been national. However, that has been changing in recent years, if at times only technically.
For example, last year, the Padres teamed up with Cutwater Spirits, the Miramar distillery best known for its ready-to-drink cocktails, to issue a co-branded Padres Vodka Mule in cans. Fresh off airing a commercial during the Superbowl, Cutwater has added a second canned Padres cocktail: The Padres Tequila Paloma (tequila and grapefruit soda). Though founded and produced locally, Cutwater was purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 2019, so the cachet of a Padres-branded canned cocktail is diminished a bit by the fact that, this year, Cutwater is producing similar canned drinks for the Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and New York Yankees (At least the Dodgers don’t get any, right?).
Meanwhile, it was a corporate-owned Ballast Point Brewing that dealt with the Padres to come up with Swingin’ Friar pale ale, dubbed “the official craft beer of the San Diego Padres.” Not confined to baseball season, it’s now a year-round release for Ballast Point, which continues to partner with the team since being bought back into the world of craft beer early last year. In fact, when the start of the 2020 season was delayed, proceeds from Swingin’ Friar sales were pledged to support Feeding San Diego, raising $9,256 for the city-focused nonprofit, an amount matched by the team’s charitable arm, the Padres Foundation.
As for “the official whiskey of the San Diego Padres,” that honor goes to Templeton Rye, originally a product of Templeton, Iowa. But not so fast! These days, Templeton is owned by Infinium Spirits, a Southern California booze company that has just relocated its corporate headquarters to downtown San Diego. So when Fernando Tatis, Jr. hits a dinger into Petco’s right field Templeton Rye Barrel Deck (as it will be called through 2022 at least), it reflects a partnership that extends to the Gaslamp Quarter (He’ll probably hit a few all the way to the Gaslamp, right?).
The beer and booze partnerships get more emphatically local when we look at smaller headline — yet still beloved — local teams that have also returned from the pandemic to play games this spring.
At this writing, minor league hockey team the San Diego Gulls have started their season 5-0! Because the team plays indoors, at the Sports Arena in Point Loma, they haven’t been allowed to welcome back fans. However, they have sold the opportunity for fans to place cardboard cutouts of themselves in the arena’s newly branded Skrewball Whiskey Fan Cutout area.
The Ocean Beach-founded booze brand officially partnered up with the Gulls this year, a three-year deal that will eventually see Skrewball cocktails served during games — once California opens them back up to in-person attendance.
Fans of San Diego Loyal SC, our newest pro soccer squad, had one chance to see the United Soccer League team play last season, its first. They would have likely been drinking beer from Stone Brewing. The Escondido-based brewery sponsors the team, which includes the Stone name front and center on players’ jerseys. Loyal SC hopes to host fans in person at USD’s Torero Stadium beginning in late May. Stone hasn’t created an official beer for their franchise, but the brewery that popularized hoppy beer does plan to serve its new Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager during games — a rep says the Mexican lager was designed to be a “great stadium beer.”
Also appearing on jerseys this season is Ballast Point. In addition to the official Padres beer, the brewery now produces the official beer of Major League Rugby squad, the San Diego Legion. One of the better teams in the league’s first two seasons, the Legion has started this year playing home games in Las Vegas, Nevada, due to pandemic restrictions. The team hopes to finish the season on its home turf — also Torero Stadium — but in the meantime it has reintroduced its Legion Lager, a helles style lager built off the recipe of Ballast Point’s year-round Longfin lager.
Last year, Ballast Point issued the seasonal Legion lager in taprooms, including its original Home Brew Mart location down the road form the stadium in Linda Vista. This year it’s returned in 16-ounce four-packs, featuring the distinctive artwork of longtime Ballast Point label artist, Paul Elder. The labels depict skeletons drinking beer, while playing rugby. Pretty spot on for a San Diego sports-meets-beer partnership.