Burlington, NC (Burlington Athletic Park and Red Oak Brewery)

Burlington Athletic Stadium

Team:  Burlington Sock Puppets*

Affiliate: Appalachian League

Ballpark Basics:  A classic Appalachian League ballpark where the game is the focal point.  

We love it when ballparks are built downtown and become a part of the urban fabric. We are typically not fans of ballparks that are built outside of the city center and surrounded by parking. However, sometimes it doesn’t really matter where the ballpark is. Burlington Athletic Stadium is tucked away in an area that is part residential and part industrial. There is not much to do in the immediate area surrounding the park. The main attraction here is baseball and that is just fine by us.   

After finding a parking spot you walk up to a classic grandstand that seems like it has been there forever. However, the ballpark itself actually started its life in 1945 a few miles up the road in Danville, Virginia. After the team there folded in 1958 the town of Burlington bought the ballpark and shipped the entire thing down to its present location. The press box sits atop the grandstand and provides possibly the best view of the field.  

The seating area consists of bleacher seating with seat backs for the sections closest to the field. There is additional bleacher seating down each baseline and a picnic area in the right field corner. One very cool feature is the bullpen area. They are situated right down the baseline and just a short chain link fence separates you from the relief pitchers as they warm up.     

For being a rookie league affiliate they certainly have a generous selection of local beer. Beer options here include some local choices such as Red Oak, Natty Greene’s and Wicked Weed. The main concession stand is underneath the grandstand and has the most options for food with some local beers. There is a concession stand/bar on the first base side the had a couple additional options for local beers on our visit.   

It is difficult to find ballparks that focus just on the game anymore. Every new ballpark has multiple distractions to take you away from enjoying the game. Taking in a game a Burlington Athletic Stadium is a welcome respite from this. 

*Burlington became the Sock Puppets with the 2021 MLB realignment. At the time of our visit and original post, they were the Burlington Royals, rookie affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Red Oak Brewery

Rating: Out stealing third

Brew Basics: A brewery whose once limited access just expanded greatly.

In an age of tasting rooms, brewery tours and crawls, goat yoga, record sales, local bands and all of the other reasons one goes to hang out in a brewery these days, Red Oak remains one of the old guard. You can visit, but only between 9-5 on weekdays, never on weekends.  They offer the opportunity to tour every Friday at 4:30. Otherwise, this fairly unfriendly warehouse is not meant for visitors.**

The pillar on which this brewery was established, and has not waivered is their adherance to the Reinheitsgebot Law.  Originally passed in 1516, this law is also known as the “German Beer Purity Law” and simply put – states that the only things allowed to be in beer are hops, barley and water.  This was later amended to also include yeast. That’s it. No additives, preservatives, fruits, peanut butter powder or anything that could make it qualify as a “sour milkshake”.

Brew Breakdown:

Staking their claim as “North America’s largest lager only craft brewery” they stick to Bavarian style lagers only.  We couldn’t get there for the tour (at which you can stay after and sample 4 beers all for $15) so we popped in to see what we could see, and purchased what was available:

Hummin’ Bird Helles Golden Munich Lager – Bavarian malts, noble hops and lager yeast are the combo for this bright golden yellow beer.  It smelled like yeast or a brewery, not unpleasant but not great. The taste was plain, a highly carbonated, balanced lager where all three ingredients play a part.  It tasted better than it smelled, but definitely needs to be drunk ice cold.

Bavarian Amber Lager – The bready flavor profile of this orange hued lager comes through in both aroma and palate.  Overall the flavor was first sparkly, with a hint of sweetness, bready center and malt finish. A good beer, especially while it’s quite cold (and of course, without preservatives, all of Red Oak’s beers must be refrigerated anyway).

Black Oak – Listed as a dopplebock, this was a smooth chocolately beer (both in color and flavor) with an ivory head.  From a brewery rooted in traditional styles, this one seemed less like the traditional version of this style and more like a light porter.  Smooth, with hints of dark fruit and some sweetness that can perhaps be attributed to the higher (8.5) abv.

**Update: Since our visit, they have opened the Red Oak Lagerhaus and Biergarten just outside of the city.  This apparently has gardens, a large indoor area with long communal tables and food trucks. If our travels take us this way again, we hope to check it out!

Red Oak Brewery

6901 Konica Drive
Whitsett, NC 27377

(336) 447-2055