Wilmington, NC (Hardee Field and Front Street)

Buck Hardee Field at Legion Stadium (The Shark Tank)

100_7411Team: Wilmington Sharks

Affiliate: N/A

Ballpark Basics:  A ballpark with a laid back beach atmosphere.

Buck Hardee Field is a part of a larger sports complex called Legion Stadium.  There is also a soccer field that dominates the complex when you walk up which caused us some confusion (we initially thought the soccer stadium was the ballpark).  After following some people we were able to find the entrance to The Shark Tank.  

Walking up there isn’t much to look at.  100_7408A set of metal bleachers sits behind home plate with some of the seats closer to the action having seatbacks.  There are two other sets of bleachers down each baseline with general admission seating.  A area with multiple picnic tables is set up between the two bleachers along the first base side and this is a great place to watch with a small group. There are also a set of private “box” seats down the right field line that are dedicated to local companies.  

The atmosphere at the games is very laid back.  Being a beach town there is a good mix of locals along with some sunburned tourists taking in a game after spending the day on the beach.  There are multiple places to watch the game with a group.  The aforementioned picnic area along with multiple tables in the Beer Garden area along with another, larger picnic area on the third base line.  

100_7403There are two areas to find beer while at The Shark Tank.  The first is a small beer stand next to the concession stand.  However, the best spot to find craft beer is in the The Beer Garden which is located in the right field corner.  Here you will find a couple of local and craft beers.  

While The Shark Tank might not have all of the bells and whistles of the new ballparks it more than makes up for it in atmosphere.  Being 10 miles from some of the best beaches on the east coast also makes this a great ballpark to add to your list.  


Front Street Brewing

100_7391Rating: Grand Slam!

Brew Basics: It started as the only game in town, but with a place like this, who needs options?

We have to give the staff at Front Street, or FSB as they call it, quite a bit of credit.  The place was packed, not like there -were -a- bunch-of- tables-packed but like crowded-packed.  There were a lot of reasons for this, which I will get into in a minute, and since nothing out of the ordinary other than (it was Friday) was going on maybe they handled it well because it was business as usual.

 The brewery itself is housed in a building, that according to the written history provided by FSB dates back to 1865.  The bar area is dark (in a pretty historic way, not in a dive bar kind of way) and wooden, and takes up basically the entire first floor of the building that’s open to the public.  Beautiful old hardwood floors, large wood bar, wood tables and chairs, Tiffany style lighting, golden copper taps and brew tubs, and a classic tray-style ceiling complete with skylight. They have a full bar here to go with their brews, chalkboards to keep you abreast of the specials, and 4 tvs, two of which were tuned to infomercials while we were there.  Obviously, people aren’t here to watch tv. Go up the wooden staircase to the second level to find the upstairs eatery with space for banquets.  And if you’re in the market, yes FSB caters.  There are also a couple of spots up for grabs outside if you’re there when the weather is nice.

FSB is no longer the only micro-brewery in 100_7386Wilmington, but be sure to stop in if you’re in the area.  Not only do they have good beer, but they have good cheap food.  Half price apps from 4-6 and again after 10pm allow you to snack along with your libations for next to nothing.

They’re is also special rotating mug selection, choose that beer and it’s 1.99 regardless of ABV, style or popularity.  And if the mug special of the day isn’t your thing, never fear, the beers are fair priced regardless.  When we visited, a 10oz mug set you back less than $4.00 and a full pint was only about a dollar more.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Brew Breakdown:

100_7388So while they aren’t trying to pass off an unpopular beer with their mug deal or anything like that, you can still afford to drink outside of the specials if you so choose.  We did:

Riptide Raspberry Wheat 4.8% ABV – not pink like some berry concoctions. this one was almost the same hue as the copper plated bar.  Surprisingly, almost no upfront aroma, and just a lot of fizz.  Similarly, the flavor is light almost like a plain American Ale, but the raspberry will come up and kick you in the aftertaste. We probably couldn’t drink a lot of this one, but you could really ease into it on a hot summer night.

Port City IPA 6.1% ABV – Golden copper colored that was just a bit more toffee than the peachy-hued Riptide Raspberry.  Much more of an aroma – a floral one at that – and lots of carbs that get you right at the start of the sip.  Another light bodied beer, without too many flavors, but with decent hop notes that make the Port City good for tart hop lovers.

Amberjack ESB (4.5 ABV) Reddish hue like an Irish beer, with lasting head and lacing.  The Amberjack came with a light aroma and a lighter-medium body.  This was Jim’s least favorite of the Front Street styles. And decided (like humor) the “English have a different idea of bitter” this English ale is not so upfront and what there is is a little sweet and sort of grainy.  Not the most flavor, balanced but sort of plain.

Dram Tree Scottish Ale (7.2 ABV) Going from our least favorite to our most-liked beer, the Dram Tree is a Cherry-Coke colored ale that smells sweet and tastes smoky.  Smooth with balanced chocolate and caramel malts, with smoke and malt strong in the aroma that carries through to the palate of the beer.

Vintage Hall Imperial Black IPA (7.9 ABV) – The Vintage Hall was actually the winner of the 2012 Homebrew Competition hosted by FSB. more.  The bouquet here is of sweet, dark fruits like plums or prunes and a bit of spice.  The light, sparkly mouthfeel is surprising for such a garnet colored beer.  This beer  was described to us as “looks like a stout, but drinks like an IPA” and that pretty much summed it up.  A bit of bitterness and hops at first sip from the Cascade, Chinook and Willamette hops found in this recipe, that mellow with the sweet secondary flavors to a smooth, creamy finish.

Beer Nerd Fact:  This beer was named after a local musician, Shane Hall and his album “Less Than Vintage”

Front Street Brewing

9 N Front Street

Wilmington, NC 28401

(910) 251-1935