In Cooperstown, if you’re not drinking ballpark beer, you’re not drinking right. Starting at the Baseball Hall of Fame, walk down Main Street: hipster hasn’t touched here. Insurance salesmen waddle around stuffed into Derek Jeter jerseys; little leaguers follow, their uniforms comparatively loose on pre-adolescent frames. July slips away in cheap ice creams—scooped into mini batting helmets, pick a team—and Coors, bottles, cold. When I last visited Cooperstown, I was in-between mint chip and Miller, so I had never heard of Ommegang Brewery before last Friday. Apparently, Ommegang is located in Cooperstown, excuse my ignorance. According to Ommegang’s website, Cooperstown was the headquarters of American hop production circa the 19th century. Ommegang started in 1997 and safely predates the 21st century explosion of craft breweries and foodie beer nerds.
Ironically, baseball plus contemporary drinking custom does not equal craft beer consumption. As a frequent patron of St. Louis’s Busch Stadium, I can attest to the hot thick trickle of Bud pooling around the seats every 7th inning. Cooperstown’s beer and baseball heritages run parallel but do not intersect. I do not think that bad beer is cause for nostalgia or celebration; I have no position on the various political and cultural connotations of beer choice: to each Cardinal (or Cub) fan his own. Although I rarely drink, I do wish that Busch Stadium served Ommegang Brewery’s Abbey Ale. On-tap, it’s a rich mahogany pour that smells like malt, molasses, and cherries. Pretentious bullshit? Need I point to my Cardinal’s lower back tattoo to dispute that accusation? (Alright, despite my lack of lower back tattoo-age, I really do believe that the Abbey Ale is a good enough beer to evoke those fragrances.) Sipping the beer on a sidewalk in Harlem, I felt very far away from Cooperstown. Matter of fact—and this one might elude our less than sober friends—Cooperstown is very far away from Belgium. Regardless of displacement and commercialization, Abbey Ale is a tasty beer, much better than the ballpark variety.