Wrigley Field in Chicago is surrounded by eating and drinking establishments. 90 miles north in Milwaukee, Miller Park is surrounded by a parking lot … which on game nights becomes a great establishment for eating and drinking.
While researching Miller Park for an upcoming guide (which will hopefully be available this summer), I got another kick to the head. I visited Miller Park in 2001, the year it opened, and had no idea about the requirement to be nearby. Is that possible to do? I was one of the first to arrive and parked near the park, waiting for the gates to open. But all he had to do was turn his head. Talk about tunnel vision.
The tailgating scene at Miller Park, by all accounts, is like no other in baseball. Maybe it’s the high price of beer and the brats inside the park. Maybe it’s the ballpark’s location away from downtown and the number of fans just driving to games. Maybe it’s the state of Wisconsin and its sausage culture. Most likely all three.
Brewer fans take their tailgating very seriously.On game days, the grills come on almost as soon as the parking gates open three hours before game time, and sometimes even earlier. Tents are pitched, Frisbees are thrown, music is played, and of course brats are roasted and beer is frozen. On opening day or other big days, some people even put together an elaborate bathroom setup. People on discussion boards who ask about Miller Park are told to get themselves a disposable grill, some charcoal, and some brats from Usinger or Klement. What type? Apparently it doesn’t matter.
The Brewers are kind enough to encourage tailgating at Miller Park, which may be part of the reason they’re ranked one of the best teams in baseball for value to the fans. There’s a Klement’s Sausage Haus stand outside that offers not just brats and beer for the unprepared, but a clean bathroom for the over-prepared. They have pavilions set up in front of the Sausage Haus that can be rented by groups. (Okay, so they sell parking space at a premium price. What equipment doesn’t?) The lots have charcoal bins to unload the embers before you leave. Last time I read, they’ll even let you leave your car in the parking lot to hail a cab if you’ve had too many, as long as you go and pick it up at the required time the next day.
The Klement folks even send a “Brat Patrol” to select a group of supporters and receive special treatment in each game; They give them prizes and present their group on the scoreboard for that night’s game.
The whole show is so popular that some people don’t even plan to attend the ball game; they just grab a few cold drinks and a brats or two, then head to a nearby Bluemound Road bar to check it out. Given the generosity of the Milwaukee people, who are even known to share their brats and beer with strangers on the lot, these people may be kissing like bandits.
There is only one unwritten rule: don’t bring Budweiser.