It's amazing that America is really not that far removed from a time when our beer choices were like the color choices for an early Model T - that is to say, "you can have your beer any style you like, as long as it's a light lager." Nowhere was this truer than at the ballpark, where baseball fans regularly were deluded into believing that Bud Light and Miller Lite were "choices." Thankfully, this false dichotomy is breaking down, as baseball stadiums are being dragged into following the rest of the country into the craft beer revolution. So now, you can watch the Orioles fight for a 2013 playoff berth while imbibing something a little more full-flavored.
Please note, I'm primarily a hophead (pale ales, IPAs, barleywines, etc.). If you're an expert on another beer style (porters/stouts, belgians, etc.), please let me know what I'm missing in the comments. If you're looking to get your ale on for your next trip to Camden Yards, read on. The information below is current based on the stadium/vendor layout for the 2013 season. And if you choose to follow my advice, PLEASE DRINK ... responsibly. Gary Thorne jokes aside, if you drink lots of beer (good beer or Bud Light Lime), please don't drive afterward.
The Pre-Game: Let's face it, nobody who's really getting their drink on at a baseball game wants to pay over $8 per beer for the entire event. So before you even get your ticket scanned at the Camden Yards gates, stop by Pickles Pub and its spacious outdoor drinking area. Beyond the standard macrobrewed lagers, you'll find $4 tallboys of Sierra Nevada Torpedo. That's right, you can get 16 ounces of Imperial IPA for half the cost of a Bud Light inside the ballpark.
The Eutaw Street Corridor: Come in to Camden Yards through the main gates and you'll stroll onto Eutaw Street, right past Boog's BBQ and Stuggy's. Unfortunately, you won't find much in the way of craft offerings out here, with the exception of InBev shill offerings like Goose Island and Leinenkugel's. But wait! Off to your left -- inside the warehouse -- you can take a turn into Dempsey's Brewpub, a full-service restaurant where many of Camden Yards' more interesting food offerings (bacon on a stick, crab dip waffle fries) originate. The Brewpub features four house beers (a red ale, an IPA, a wheat beer and a golden ale), which in all truth are solid but unimpressive. But it also features a solid bottled beer list with something for everyone, making the brewpub worth a stop if it's not completely swamped and you have a little time to kill before first pitch.
The Lower Concourse: If you're getting into Camden Yards without too much time to spare before first pitch, this is the best place to grab yourself a good beer. You have two really good options down here. First, you can stop by the Flying Dog kiosk on the outer edge of the concourse near home plate. Flying Dog is a Frederick, MD, brewery, and their kiosk is a good place to get the aforementioned crab dip waffle fries at the same time as you grab a Snake Dog IPA, Underdog Lager, Raging Bitch Belgian IPA or Woody Creek White. Even better, if you come to a Friday night game, Flying Dog brings a cask beer selection to their kiosk, which is a really rare treat for beer snobs at a ballgame (or a chance to drink "warm, flat beer" for people who haven't gone over the edge yet). The other option, on the inner portion of the concourse just past Flying Dog, is the Free State Pub, which has regional craft beers on tap, and punkrawka's own personal selection for Best Beer You Can Get At Camden Yards, Evolution's Lot #3 IPA, served in bottles here and nowhere else in the stadium.
The Upper Concourse: Unfortunately, this is where things get a little dicey, and I know, because my partial season seats are up here. Once you're up on the 300 level of Camden Yards, your options are limited to a small kiosk on the outer concourse for Heavy Seas Brewery (another Maryland brewery, but one whose quality has declined of late, in my humble opinion), and a beer/margarita bar on the inner concourse, whose only craft offering is ... Heavy Seas! So if you want an ale on the upper deck, you can have Loose Cannon IPA or Loose Cannon IPA, and you can like it.
In The Seats: Unfortunately, I have yet to see a beer vendor at Camden Yards schlepping around anything other than the standard selection of lagers. With the number of quality craft beers that's now available in cans, it would be really nice if the vendors in the stands would tote around one token full-flavored beer, even something as simple as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Alas, if you want a good beer, you're going to be getting up for it.
A beer snob wouldn't be a beer snob if they weren't complaining about something, but the fact is that Orioles fans can drink pretty well at Camden Yards these days, even if they have to hunt out the best selections just a little bit. My gameday routine is a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA with crab dip waffle fries to start out, then an Evolution Lot #3 IPA a little later on. But ultimately, you have choices, and choices are good.
What did I miss? What's available on the Club Level, which I never frequent? What's available on that cool rooftop bar above the centerfield flag court, which is always full when I try to go check it out? Is there anywhere in the park that you can't get Bud Light Lime? Let me know in the comments, and I'll update this post accordingly.