With so many breweries in and around Asheville, one of the area’s biggest beer gatherings can be found at the local minor league ballpark.
The Asheville Tourists will open their 2017 season at McCormick Field with another round of Thirsty Thursday promotions. At each Thursday home game, regular domestic draft beer is $1, and craft beer on draft is two bucks, says General Manager Larry Hawkins.
That deal brings huge crowds of 3,400 to 4,000 to the ballpark, home of the Colorado Rockies single A affiliate Tourists. Some of that Thirsty Thursday bunch will stay on the concourse for cold beverages, while others take their cups into McCormick Field for the game. The promotion began in the early 1980s as a way to generate traffic at the ballpark.
Hawkins says 11 Thirsty Thursday events are scheduled this year, beginning on opening night, April 13, with a game against regional rivals the Greenville (S.C.) Drive. The promotions will continue April 27 against Greensboro; May 11 against West Virginia; June 1 against Lakewood, N.J.; June 22 with Rome, Ga.; June 29 facing Greenville; July 6 against Charleston, S.C.; July 13 facing Hickory; July 27 against Rome; and Aug. 10 and 24 both versus Augusta, Ga.
Remember to bring your identification for Thirsty Thursdays, and before getting a beer, purchase a $1 wristband just inside the gate. All wristband sales benefit the Asheville Tourists Children’s Charities, which uses the money to buy shoes for needy children.
This year, local breweries featured at the ballpark are New Belgium, Catawba, Highland, Oskar Blues, Hi-Wire and Sierra Nevada. Other craft brewers to be found on the tap lines are Sweetwater, Foothills and Samuel Adams. Mexican beers Corona and Modelo will be there, plus, for the first time, Blue Moon.
National brands are Bud, Coors Light, and Yeungling. For Thirsty Thursday pricing, beer will be sold in 12-ounce cups, but 16- and 24-ounce pours will also be available. Hard cider and wine will be available as well.
Catawba Brewing will co-sponsor Thirsty Thursday this season along with radio station 105.9 The Mountain. The brewery has had its beers at McCormick Field for four seasons, says co-owner Billy Pyatt, who describes himself as a big baseball fan.
“For me, to work with a sport that I love, it’s a perfect fit,” he says. “It doesn’t hurt that the [brewery] tasting room is so close [to the ballpark]. We do see a little bump in visitation before games.” The Thirsty Thursday promotion brings increased visibility to the brewery, he says.
Catawba will have two taps at the park this year. Featured beers will include White Zombie wit and Farmer Ted’s Cream Ale, and Pyatt says the brewery has plans to introduce a couple of other brews in that line as well.
Hi-Wire Brewing has been a Thirsty Thursday regular for several seasons, but it’s greatly expanding its presence this season with a booth, says brewery co-founder Chris Frosaker. This year, Hi-Wire will have three beers on tap for games — its lager, Bed of Nails Brown and Hi-Pitch IPA. “Our relationship with the Tourists started as fans rather than beer producers,” he explains. “We love going to games and the atmosphere there. It’s a great way to expose our brand.” The brewery will also sponsor a hospitality suite at the park.
In deciding which beers to offer at McCormick Field, “We wanted to keep them approachable,” says Frosaker. “People are going over there to hang out and have a good time.”
Highland Brewing, Asheville’s first craft brewer, has long served its beers at McCormick Field and during Thirsty Thursday events, says President Leah Ashburn. “Being part of the Asheville Tourists is being part of Asheville,” she says. “It does bring attention to the brewery. And it’s nice that they give people a break on the price on that night.”
Highland has three ballpark taps, and this year will feature Gaelic amber ale, Highland IPA and a rotating tap that will include Highland Pilsner and seasonal beers Big Briar Tart Raspberry Ale and Southern Sixer IPA.
The team will also host another Beer City Tourists game on Thursday, June 1, during AVL Beer Week as a way of promoting Asheville’s nationally famous craft beer scene. For that matchup with Lakewood, the team will rename itself the Beer City Tourists and will dress in special uniforms, which will later be auctioned to benefit local youth baseball organizations. Last year’s auction raised over $3,600.
For fans, Beer City Tourists hats and gear are available in the gift shop. Other promotions at the park this season include a Rick Rice bobble head honoring the longtime, now-retired Tourists’ announcer (April 29) and a Trevor Story bobble head honoring the 2012 Tourists’ captain (June 24). And fireworks will fly at nine of the 11 scheduled Friday games, plus on July 4 and Sept. 3.
McCormick Field is at 30 Buchanan Place. Single-game tickets are now on sale at $8 for general admission and $7 for children ages 6-12 with discounts for advance purchases. Order online at avl.mx/da.