Just in time for Opening Day, there’s a new beer at Nationals Park. No, a local brewery hasn’t come up with Trea Turner Tripel (although I’d totally drink that) or honored Danny Murphy with a Silver Slugger Stout. The Washington Nationals worked with Devils Backbone in the offseason to create Earned Run Ale, and the only way to try it is to watch a game at the ballpark — specifically, at the new Devils Backbone Left Field Lodge bar, which is where it’s guaranteed to be on tap.
Earned Run Ale, or ERA, is a bright, quaffable golden ale, with a burst of lemon and grapefruit from Amarillo and Centennial hops, and a pleasant bitterness. Brewer Josh French, from the company’s Outpost brewery in Lexington, Va., says that representatives from the Nationals offered feedback on different beer styles, but when he sat down with brewmaster Jason Oliver, they reached consensus pretty quickly: “What’s good to drink when it’s hot? A hoppy, sessionable pale ale,” French says. “We like sessionable beers. It’s a passion of ours.”
The body is light — the alcohol by volume is just 4.2 percent, on the level of Miller Lite — but the citrus character and bitterness keep it interesting, making it a better choice than the light American lagers the proliferate throughout the ballpark.
The ties between craft beer and Major League Baseball continue to grow. The Kansas City Royals named Boulevard its official craft beer this year, and St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing is making an exclusive lager available at Tampa Bay Rays games this year. Devils Backbone, on the other hand, was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in 2016, and the St. Louis-based brewery is the official beer partner at Nationals Park. It’s not hard to hypothesize about why Devils Backbone is making the Nationals’ exclusive beer rather than, say, Samuel Adams, which offered a stadium-exclusive IPA in 2015 to mark the team’s 10th anniversary.
But let’s focus on baseball rather than craft beer politics. The Devils Backbone bar, which replaced the Lime-A-Rita stand near Section 301, is a great place to sit for a few innings, with views from just above the left-field foul pole and picnic tables and four Devils Backbone beers on tap, including ERA.
Devils Backbone Brewing’s Earned Run Ale. dbbrewingcompany.com. $10.50 per 20-ounce cup.