Phillies take 8 for the home team

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THE PHILLIES may be unable to put a championship team on the field, but as the 2006 season begins this weekend, it’s worth noting one thing they got right.

The beer.

With the possible exception of Seattle’s Safeco Field, in the heart of the Northwest’s micro territory, no major league ballpark does a better job of supporting its local breweries than Citizens Bank Park. In an age when most big vendors spill out little more than BudCoorsMiller, the Phillies and concessionaire Aramark are serving up brews from no fewer than eight different Pennsylvania and New Jersey breweries.

Add those to the premiums from Anchor, Sierra Nevada and Red Hook, and you’re talking about a craft beer festival every time the Phillies play at home.

You’ll pardon my enthusiasm, but consider that this broad selection comes in a city where, right across the street, it took three years of fan complaints for the Eagles to finally relent and offer even a single locally made beer.

Consider, too, how this primo beer selection stands in contrast to the pitiful, 1998 suds-skimming scandal at Veterans Stadium. You may recall that’s when Joe Sixpack and the Daily News caught the Phillies’ previous vendor cheating fans out of an honest pour.

Back then, the closest the stadium got to a locally produced alcoholic product was whatever the fans in the 700 Level managed to smuggle into the game.

If only the front office could turn it around so dramatically on the field. This season, the starting local lineup looks like this:

  1.  Dock Street Amber, Philadelphia.
  2.  Flying Fish Extra Pale Ale, Cherry Hill.
  3.  Victory HopDevil, Downingtown.
  4.  Yards Philly Pale Ale, Philadelphia.
  5.  Troegs, Harrisburg (rookie year).
  6.  Sly Fox, Phoenixville (rookie year).
  7.  Straub, St. Mary’s (rookie year).
  8.  Yuengling Lager, Pottsville.

All that’s missing is a pitcher!

Those three newcomers, by the way, could make as big a splash as Ryan Howard did in his rookie year.

Sly Fox will pour Pikeland Pils, a gold-medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival. Aramark says it may expand that selection to include Sly Fox’s new cans of Phoenix IPA.

Troeg’s will serve a pilsner, too – its crisp, refreshing Sunshine Pils. By the All-Star break, though, the ballpark could be calling up Troeg’s spicy Dreamweaver Wheat. If you haven’t had this beer on tap, yet, take the time to track it down at one of the park’s beer stands. It’s cloudy, like Hoegaarden, but far more stylish – like Jimmy Rollins turning a double play.

The third newcomer, Straub, is hardly a rookie. Though we don’t see much of it in our neighborhood, this Western Pennsylvania treasure has been around for 134 years.

A little larger than a standard micro, Straub nonetheless calls itself a craft brewery because its beer contains no preservatives. “It’s an all-natural product,” said the brewery’s Joe McMackin. “We pride ourselves on the freshness of our beers.”

At the ballpark, look for Straub’s in bottles only.

Gripes? Yeah, I’ve got one, for the people who operate McFadden’s, that huge saloon inside the ballpark: I’m sure you’re raking in tons of money selling nothing but the usual, uninspired factory lagers. But serving re-treads only is as lame as depending on Tom Gordon as your stopper. It’s time for you to start supporting your local breweries, too.

Beer radar

The Irish Pub (1123 Walnut St., Center City) is joining the growing number of area bars that serve beer under their own label. To mark its 25th anniversary, the pub will debut its own Irish Pub Amber Lager starting Thursday at a first-pour celebration from 6 to 8 p.m. The beer is from Downingtown’s Victory Brewing.

The Tippler’s Tour, a walk around Old City’s historic drinking establishments, is up and running for the 2006 season starting Wednesday. The two-hour tour, which explores the role of taverns in the founding of our nation, leaves at 5:30 p.m. from Independence Living History Center, 3rd and Chestnut streets. Info, 215-629-4026.

Tomorrow night, pull on your lederhosen and join the oompah fun at Bavarian Stiftungsfest, the springtime Oktoberfest celebration at Cannstatter, (9130 Academy Road, Northeast Philadelphia). Plenty of bratwurst, dancing and German beer. Gates open 7 p.m. Tickets are $8.50, $10 at the door. Info, 215-855-3376.


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