When the Chicago Cubs host their home opener at Wrigley Field on April 8, there will be a pair of Milwaukee-brewed craft beers in attendance.
The list of beers available at Wrigley Field during the 2019 season includes standouts like Three Floyds Zombie Dust, standbys like Bell’s Oberon Ale, and Chicago fan favorites like (barely tolerable) Old Style.
But if you look closely at this season’s beer menu at “The Friendly Confines,” you’ll see an outlier. Included among the beers from big brewers and Chicago staples are a pair of brews from a smaller outfit in the heart of Milwaukee Brewers territory.
Broken Bat Brewing Company (231 E. Buffalo St.) makes the only Wisconsin-brewed beers available at the park. Corré Corré Mexican ager and Golden Sombrero pilsner are pouring from a couple of different taps at the home of the Cubs. The beers will be available at the W Club, underneath the third base seats, and in another tap area in the stadium.
Great Branding and a Timely Visit
It likely doesn’t hurt that Broken Bat has a prevalent baseball theme, or that owners Tim Pauly and Dan McElwee are baseball fans. But a timely visit from a bigwig from Levy Restaurant Group, the food and beverage provider at Wrigley, didn’t hurt either.
“One of the higher-ups at Levy stopped by Broken Bat with his family last summer and had a nice time,” explained Pauly. “He kind of fell in love with the brand and the beer and figured we’d be a good fit.”
At the end of the 2018 baseball season, Pauly hauled some Broken Bat samples to Chicago for a meeting with Levy.
“I got in front of their purchasing group and it turned from an interview to just (talking) about beer and baseball,” said Pauly. “A couple of months later they sent us their first order. It was a very different experience than pursuing Miller Park, where it was begging and groveling to get a meeting. We were offered a tap line at Miller Park but (with the price they offered to pay) we would have been losing money on every keg. We kind of felt like we were doing something wrong. We didn’t feel really wanted at Miller Park. Wrigley rolled out the tiny red carpet for the little microbrewery from Milwaukee.”
Meeting New Demand
Broken Bat’s annual production of less than 1,000 barrels pales in comparison to other craft brewers at Wrigley, like Revolution Brewing, Bell’s Brewery and Three Floyds, which are all among the 40 largest craft breweries in the United States. Barrels are precious, and an uptick at Wrigley could be a headache, albeit a good one, for Broken Bat.
To compensate, the brewery plans to scale back its taproom menu slightly and focus on the production of Corré Corré and Golden Sombrero. Contract brewing elsewhere is not in the plans.
“If you put your name on it, it should be brewed in your brewery,” said Pauly.
Brewers Fans First
Cognitive dissonance is understandable for a pair of Brewers fans getting a big break at the baseball home of a bitter rival. But the exposure to a new audience in Chicago and a few tap lines in the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball just make sense.
“I’m first and foremost a Brewers fan, but I’m also just a huge fan of baseball,” explained Pauly. “I’ve been to Wrigley and love and admire the history and nostalgia, and I understand what it means to be the Lambeau Field of baseball. I still would really love to get into Miller Park. It’s just that the cost has to be right. For now, it’s just a really cool opportunity to be in one of the most well-known stadiums in the country.”