Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Park
Affiliate: N/A (Cactus League)
Ballpark Basics: The first MLB Spring Training facility to be built on Indian land.
You will find Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on a number of best of lists and one visit will make it easy to see why. With views of Camelback Mountain, the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, Red Mountain, and the Superstition Mountains it is a must visit on any Cactus League trip.
Walking up to the ballpark the outside incorporated natural elements of the desert landscape leading up to the park. This continues once inside with desert vegetation throughout the outfield concourse. The sweeping roofline covering the grandstand is the most striking feature once inside and is intended to mimic the natural surroundings.
With two teams sharing the ballpark, Salt River Fields makes sure each team is represented. Each team has its own dedicated team store (although the store for the team that is not playing was not open on our visit). They even have a dedicated beer stand for each team (one for Arizona beers, and one for Colorado beers). However, this is where each team’s branding ends. There are no banner or plaques representing each team throughout the park.
Best Spot for Beer:
Speaking of beer, each concession stand had at least one local option and the Diamond Bar on the outfield concourse had a decent selection. However, as previously mentioned the two stands dedicated to each team’s local beer was your best option for multiple choices of local craft beer.
Is is the small details that really make this ballpark stand out. They have thoughtfully placed multiple places to stop along the concourse to catch glimpses of the game. There are small concrete blocks placed around the concourse that add additional seating when needed. They have added drink stands around the support beams of the overhang to offer yet another place to stop and catch more of the game.
Our only real complaint would be the parking. Like most of the Cactus League ballparks we visited, the parking lots seemed to be an afterthought without much organization, signage or shade. This led to a long walk to the wrong gate after following the crowds to what we thought was an entrance.
HKS Architects thought about just everything when designing Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Park. From the natural elements outside and inside the park, to the nods to each team, to the small details that make this park unique a game at Salt River Fields is a must for any Cactus League trip.
PHX Beer Co.
Brew Basics: When in PHX…
Just like Phoenix is the center of the Cactus league, with many stadiums contained in a relatively small area, so too is their beer scene. We actually appreciated this as we had several breweries recommended to us before the trip and could kind of finagle getting them all in this way since there was often an alternate location to suit our purposes. Case in point, Phoenix Beer Company – Scottsdale.
You’ll find this incarnation of Phoenix Beer Company situated just about five minutes from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick Park in a residential mall area. So residential in fact, the pond on which the large deck overlooks has a tract of suburban homes on the opposite shore.
The inside leans toward a darker color palette with mainly charcoal gray and black for the seating, walls and bar, and dark wood tables and floor. Wood planks run across the ceiling and vertically down the bar, which was also packed with four TVs. A big sliding door opens to allow outside in, and on this unseasonable 98 degree day in March, the a/c out.
The music was a bit louder than what you’d expect with the scene but it went with the friendly vibe, which extended to dogs, and a few crows that had come down to snack on some nachos that had yet to be bussed. They were busy, and seemed a bit understaffed, but everyone was nice and this was the first spring training after the COVID shut down while all restaurants were still feeling the effects of the staffing shortage, so no judgment here.
In contrast to the dimmer inside tones, we sat in bright yellow chairs on the large patio right on the water, surrounded by purple flowering trees. Happy hour ran 2-6 which made most of their full size pours just $4.00. We managed to try five different ones before heading to the game.
Sunset Sour (5.3% ABV/16 IBU) Very orange and opaque in color. Has a tart cherry and red raspberry puree aroma. The palate is equally sour, but in the tart fruit sense not just fermented sour. The body remains very tangy and ends with tart stone fruits. Good balance, and doesn’t get cloyingly sweet like some of the smoothie fruit sours.
Monsoon IPA (7% ABV/ 70 IBU) Slightly unfiltered and light, bright yellow in color. Great aroma that’s happy and floral. Palate is lemongrass and a bit earthy but the finale supports that bouquet with a floral, hoppy punch.
Howling Oats Hazy IPA (5.7% ABV/ 40 IBU). Lots of sticky white lacing rings this pale yellow beer with a hue that’s just slightly less gold than the Monsoon. Smell is dry and mostly made up of the oat and hop notes. There’s a burst of fruit in the middle, but it ends dry like the nose. Unique in that despite the mango and papaya elements, it’s the oats and hops that pop more than anything else.
Beyond the Peel (5.5% ABV/ 40 IBU) A lighter golden yellow beer that’s similar in color to the Howling Oats but with less lacing. Though the fragrance is mainly that of stinky, wet hops, the flavor is much sweeter than the aroma belies. Smooth upfront with pronounced orange and orange flower notes at the end, but not overly orange or fake chemical tasting, which can be a problem in orangey beers.
North Rim Hazy IPA (6.7ABV/ 70 IBU) The smell on this one is just hops for days. It’s in your face and throughout the sip, and is the most old school palate killer IPA of the hazies that we’ve had. Notes of tropical fruits mux with strong pine in the sip, and the aftertaste is all piney hops. A very west coast version of a hazy that may be better slightly warmer as the hops tone down and the fruit perks up.
8300 N Hayden Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258