My earliest sports memories are going to Florida State University basketball games with my dad.
I’ve been told that when I was little, I mainly just fell asleep at halftime, oblivious to future pros Charlie Ward, Bob Sura and Sam Cassell out on the court. When I was old enough to actually appreciate the game, the team was much worse. So I noticed things other than the inept play on display, like how Dad would pay $5 for beer.
Back then I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would ever pay $5 for a drink – especially one that didn’t come with free refills.
But I admit I bought not one but two $7 beers the other day, my very first stadium beers. Dad will be so proud.
And in a trend that’s sweeping the stadiums of the Triangle, the beers I had were craft beers.
It’s no coincidence that three Triangle sports teams – the Durham Bulls, Carolina RailHawks and Holly Springs Salamanders – all have their own specially branded brews.
In the baseball world, the brand-new Holly Springs Salamanders have the StitchBuster pale ale, brewed by Aviator Brewing Co. in nearby Fuquay-Varina. The Salamanders compete in the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer baseball league.
A few months ago, Aviator owner Mark Doble told me it was going to be made with real salamanders. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the sold-out opening game last week to find out for myself.
The Durham Bulls also have not only their own beers but even their own brewery.
Baseball fans love weird trivia. So lovers of weird baseball trivia might also enjoy knowing the Bull Durham Beer Co. is the only craft brewery located inside a minor league baseball stadium.
The brewers, Sebastian Wolfrum and Tate Little, have created two low-alcohol session beers, the Lollygagger Kolsch and the Water Tower Wheat, to allow nine full innings of drinking.
My first stadium beer, however, was not at a baseball or basketball game. It was the Kupono Captain’s Ale, in Cary at a Carolina RailHawks soccer game. Brewed by Lonerider in Raleigh, it’s an American blond ale named after Kupono Low, the RailHawks’ veteran defender.
I’m not usually superstitious, like many sports fans are. But the keg ran out at halftime, and shortly after the second half started, Low had to be subbed out.
Coincidence? You decide.
We may never know whether the beer is bewitching its namesake defender. I will say it didn’t exactly charm me during the overcast night game I attended.
That’s not to say the Captain’s Ale is a bad beer. It’s just meant more for a warm, sunny day. The guy who poured it agreed.
“It’s a swigger,” he said. “It’ll be popular this summer.”
The RailHhawks played poorly, and the beer would’ve been better in hotter conditions, but at least the chants were fun.
“RailHawk boys are here,” fans yelled at one point, a vuvuzela squawking in the background. “We’ll steal your women and drink your beer.”
I didn’t see anyone follow through on either threat, but an errant shot did knock one man’s full beer all over his lap.
Such is the risk of stadium drinking.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
Brews at the stadium
Want to go check out these new stadium brews soon? Follow these tips.
▪ The Bulls sell popcorn, hotdogs and soda for $1 at Thursday home games. Use the savings to buy more beer. Tickets and more: durhambulls.com.
▪ The Kupono Captain’s Ale will be best enjoyed in the summer, and the Railhawks only have one home game this month, on Saturday June 6, plus five in July and August. Tickets and more: carolinarailhawks.com. There’s also a tailgate and homebrewing contest sponsored by the Triangle Soccer Fanatics group starting at 5 p.m. before Saturday’s game. It’s free to attend, with a suggested $5 donation to sample the beers.
▪ The Salamanders have a Father’s Day special on June 21. Bring your dad and buy him a couple beers. Tickets and more: salamandersbaseball.com.