Beer, Wine and Spirits. Tastings and Travel. News and Events. Classic Flavors from Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across the Drinks World.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekend Watering Hole: SandLot Brewery at Coors Field

As a regular weekend feature, Lyke2Drink will visit some of the world's great watering holes. This week we head to the Mile High City to visit the 2005 Small Brewery of the Year, SandLot Brewery at Coors Field.

SandLot Brewery at Coors Field
22nd & Blake Street
Denver, Colo. 80202
(303) 298-1587

There is nothing like a cold beer at a baseball game on a warm summer afternoon. Perhaps the only way to improve on the combination is when the beer in question is a fresh craft brew. That's why the SandLot Brewery in Denver was an instant hit when it opened in 1995, the inaugural season for the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

Tucked into the stands along the first base line, the SandLot Brewery is a brewpub that is open whether or not the Rockies are on the field. During games, you need a ticket to get into this bar. I made my first visit to the location while in Denver during the Great American Beer Festival a few years back. After striking up a conversation with brewer John Legnard, my traveling companion, Darrin Pikarksy, and I quickly found ourselves in a basement beer heaven. At the time, I had my doubts about what a brewpub owned by Coors might actually be contributing to the craft beer movement. We tried a range of SandLot beers, including a couple that had yet to be put on draught in the pub, and my doubts soon turned into enthusiasm for the quality of the brewery.

SandLot maintains a fairly lose relationship with Molson Coors, but the parent does watch the SandLot for ideas and trends. In fact, the Blue Moon brand actually got its start at SandLot as Bellyslide Belgian White. While it might be hard for a mega brewer to take a chance on a non-mainstream style brew because it happens to have a loyal following among patrons of a single brewpub, Blue Moon proves that it can work.

I'm not alone in wishing that Molson Coors would expand distribution of more of the beers from the SandLot. At the 2005 Great American Beer Festival, the judges named SandLot the Small Brewery of the Year and handed over seven medals for a range of brews:

-- Pinch Hit Pilsner: German-Style Pilsener -- Gold
-- Barmen Pilsner -- American-Style Specialty Lager -- Gold
-- Melvis Easly's Special Lager -- American-Style Specialty Lager -- Silver
-- Second Hand Smoke -- Smoke-Flavored Beer -- Silver
-- Most Beer Judges Are Bone Heads -- European-Style Pilsener -- Silver
-- Goat Rancher -- Bock -- Silver
-- Wild Pitch Hefeweizen -- South German-Style Hefeweizen/Hefeweissbier -- Bronze

The decor of the SandLot is a cross between a classic American brewpub and a sports bar. Typical brewpub food is highlighted on the menu, with burgers popular with many at the bar. My wish is that the SandLot would encourage more stadium operators. They all don't need to open brewpubs, but it sure would be nice to find more offering great microbrewed products along side the typical national brands they all pour.

I am planning to travel to Denver for the 25th anniversary Great American Beer Festival that runs from Sept. 28-30. Since Coors Filed is located almost midway between my hotel and the festival site, the SandLot makes a logical site to rest my legs along the way. With seven reigning medalist brews, it's almost like a mini-beer festival on its own. Now that is certainly an improvement on the already great American tradition of a ballgame and a brew.

No comments: