PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's almost a given that when fans attend a major sporting event, either Budweiser, Coors or Miller will be in the stands with them.
After all, either Anheuser-Busch InBev or SAB Miller/MolsonCoors joint venture Miller Coors are the official beers of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, NASCAR and Major League Soccer and have a huge billboard and concessions presence in each league's facilities. That sponsorship, however, doesn't buy them complete control.
Back in 2012, the Kansas City Royals made local craft beer brewery Boulevard Brewing an official beer sponsor and plastered its huge billboards throughout Kauffman Stadium while pouring its beers out of backpack kegs in the stands. When Oskar Blues Brewing founder Dale Katechis expanded his Lyons, Colo.-based brand to a brewing facility in Brevard, N.C., he coaxed Darlington Motor Speedway into making his brewery the facility's first official craft beer sponsor. Cans of Dale's Pale Ale and Mama's Little Yella Pils are now sold during the Coca-Cola 600 and the Bank of America 500.
By buying into niches and snapping up sponsorships when the price is right, small brewers have made an outsized impression on professional sports. Nowhere is this more true than in Major League Soccer, where the league's $10 million sponsorship deal with A-B InBev's Budweiser brand runs through 2015, but doesn't include local beer rights. Thus, when the Portland Timbers came into the league in 2011, they were able to retain Budweiser as a domestic beer sponsor and the Craft Brew Alliance's Portland-based Widmer Brothers as its craft beer sponsor. Not only does the Widmer logo hang from the rafters at the Timbers' Providence Park, Widmer Brothers founders Kurt and Rob Widmer led a toast to the Timbers Army supporters group before the team's first match with the rival Seattle Sounders earlier this month.Since then, various other teams have followed the example the Timbers set with Widmer. Sporting Kansas City signed a five-year deal with Boulevard last year to serve as the team's official craft beer sponsor. The brewery has its name splashed across Sporting Park's members club and markets its beers with help from the team, though it stops just short of brewing a Sporting-specific beer. Houston-based Saint Arnold brewery, meanwhile, is now the official beer sponsor of the Houston Dynamo's Texian Army supporters group, though it doesn't have a similar relationship with the team itself. When fans and teams are lucky, all this craft beer synergy results in a beer that they can call their own. We consulted with the good folks at the Free Beer Movement -- a great soccer site dedicated to converting and educating new fans for the sport in exchange for a free beer every now and then -- and came across five MLS-themed beers worth trying this season:
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