Welcome to Verizon Center, home to Washington’s Capitals (NHL), Wizards (NBA, soon to be Bullets again?) and Mystics (WNBA). This arena has been regarded as cutting edge in design and one of the most fan-friendly and fan-centric buildings in sports, but how does the new beer list stack up?
This past summer, VC owner Ted Leonsis made the claim that he has improved the arena’s selection of beer. Truthfully, I don’t remember the previous seasons being sub-par. The Bud/Coors/Miller trifecta continues to be a staple of sports fare, and that hasn’t changed for 2010-11. Of the 52 beers that should be available, 27% of the list (see previous “Ted’s Take” link) is either explicitly Big 3, or Big 3 owned. Hmm. Only 4 (3 really, in Ted’s post he lists Dominion and Old Dominion, which are the same brewery) regional breweries are represented; Dominion, Starr Hill, Fordham. That’s an astounding 7%. It’s a curious thing to “improve” beer selection by adding five versions of Anheuser Busch and four types of Michelob.
As drab as this sounds, the bigger issue will be location of any of these beers. There are two main concourses inside Verizon Center, full of concessions and humanity. Where will all this beer be? Multiple commenters had asked about maps throughout the arena. Will they be there? Answers coming soon (like, when I leave the couch and go to the game).
The short answer is, there is no map. While this (assumed) vital piece is missing, you cannot move about the concourses without tripping over one of the many new beer stands, Nation’s Capital Brew Pubs (their slogan, “Craft beer from near and far”). Staggered between existing concessions and the bathrooms (wise move), and boasting 4 taps per stand, the new kiosks offer up the craft side of Mr. Leonsis’ summer homework. Though Red Hook ESB continues to be a commonality at VC events (Red Hook products are always good), Kona products were much more visible on the second concourse.
In the pregame, I listed the three regional breweries that were to be represented. I was only able to find Old Dominion English Ale and Lager. Not bad, the English Ale is a fan favorite. Starr Hill taps might have been on the main concourse (no map, just remember “lower level”), or I had only seen the logo on some sort of promotional material. Fordham, a solid local copper ale, was equally MIA.
Though my time on the concourse during intermissions was limited, the new setup gave the notion that these new stands would ease the traffic and congestion around the main concessions. And for the most part it worked. I think. The new tap locations were a welcome sight to many mainly because of their proximity to section entrances, but after two games Caps games, it is unclear if the beers themselves made the impact. Outside of myself.
Then again, as ubiquitous as it is, I’ve never seen a Guinness tap go unloved. This was pregame, the majority of ticket holders had yet to arrive. Trust me, they drank it.
Seeing this was a game against the upstart (plucky, hardworking, and TPG’s favorite) New York Islanders, and that good beer is now $8 a pop, my adventures outside of section 422 were limited. There will be more hockey, more beer, and more beer consumed during hockey. I can promise you this. Maybe a game against millionaire “specialist” Dan Ellis and the Tampa Bay Lightning is in order. We shall see.
The tap menu wasn’t broke, but they didn’t fix it. They made it better. All in all, this was an excellent beer experience.
For the record, I had a Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale. Big flavor, low on bitter. Get one.